A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 12, 2022

Why Belarus Can't Fix Putin's Ukraine Problem

The Belarussian military has already been forced to provide Russia with much of its armor and ammunition to replenish Russian stocks, rendering the Belarussians relatively useless as a strategic threat. 

The Belarussian leadership is well aware of the losses Russia has taken and have no interest in contributing its own forces to a failed invasion, especially given the prospect of civil unrest it is likely to inspire. As a result, Belarus will continue to resist Russian pressure to invade and even if it were forced to join in, are likely to suffer unsustainable casualties quickly. JL

David Brennan reports in Newsweek:

Belarusian forces remain "extraordinarily unlikely" to join Russia's invasion. Belarus is has already weakened its military through the provision of tanks, other vehicles and munitions to Russian forces. "Belarus lacks capabilities to produce its own armored vehicles making the transfer of this equipment to Russian forces a constraint on Belarusian capacities [to] commit forces to the fighting." (And) Ukrainian troops have spent months turning the border with Belarus into a formidable defensive line. "The Belarusian military are aware of the losses Russia suffered in Ukraine and do not wish the same result." (The prospect) of societal unrest is also staying Lukashenko's handUkrainian troops have spent months turning the northern border with Belarus into a formidable defensive line, fearing that President Alexandr Lukashenko may throw his weight behind Russia's military quagmire in Ukraine.

Lukashenko is the only ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin deemed loyal enough to consider sending significant numbers of troops into Ukraine, a move that would—in theory—open a new front and pin a large number of defenders north of Kyiv.

But according to a new report released by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) this weekend, Belarusian forces remain "extraordinarily unlikely" to join Russia's invasion, despite Moscow's information operations. Lukashenko has already given Russia access to Belarusian territory, infrastructure, military bases, and hospitals to support the invasion of Ukraine, making Minsk a "cobelligerent" in the ongoing conflict, ISW said. February's initial drive for Kyiv was launched from Belarusian territory, as have many missile, drone, and air strikes in the months since. to coax Minsk i

ISW said Russia's ongoing efforts to pressure Lukashenko into sending troops into Ukraine are part of Moscow's long-term strategy to increase control over Minsk, which amid international isolation has become increasingly dependent on the Kremlin.

"These information operations are extraordinarily unlikely to herald actual Belarusian intervention in the foreseeable future," the ISW report said.


Belarus is already thought to have weakened its own military through the provision of tanks, other vehicles and munitions to replenish Russian forces. In November, the Belarusian open-source Hajun Project reported that Minsk transferred 211 military equipment, including 122 T-72A main battle tanks, to Russia.

"Belarus lacks capabilities to produce its own armored fighting vehicles making the transfer of this equipment to Russian forces both a current and a likely long-term constraint on Belarusian material capacities [to] commit mechanized forces to the fighting in Ukraine," the ISW wrote.

The existing Belarusian military—which ISW estimated at around 45,000 personnel split between two command headquarters and six maneuver brigades—is likely facing recruitment and training challenges due to its involvement in the invasion of Ukraine.

With around 12,000 Russian troops currently stationed in-country, military resources are strained, the ISW wrote a problem that would be exacerbated if Lukashenko ordered more conscription and recruitment to prepare for possible losses in Ukraine.

Belarusian and Russian forces have long conducted joint military training and sought closer cooperation. This shared experience should enable better coordination and performance in the event that Belarusian and Russian troops launch a fresh offensive into northern Ukraine.


But the ISW noted that Russia's enormous casualty figures—now approaching 100,000 according to Kyiv—will undermine future joint operations. Elite Russian units, ISW wrote, "now likely lack the capability to operate in combined formations with Belarusian forces and likely are unable to operate effectively in combined operations."

"Belarusian forces would likely have to operate together with poorly trained mobilized Russian personnel if they entered the war in Ukraine," the report read. "The outcome of efforts to form and use such combined units in combat is likely to be poor."

Belarusian opposition leaders have long predicted that the military would refuse an order from Lukashenko to join the war in Ukraine. ISW noted that "friction within the Belarusian military" has likely worsened due to Russia's efforts to pressure Minsk into joining the invasion, citing reports from Ukrainian intelligence and other sources of tensions between Belarusian troops and Russians stationed in the country.

"Belarusian personnel are certainly aware of the significant losses that Russian forces suffered in Ukraine and likely do not wish to experience the same result," ISW wrote. "Belarusian units likely know that their units and the Belarusian military as a whole would not fare better than Russian units that were far more capable and well-trained."


Broader societal unrest is also staying Lukashenko's hand, ISW suggested. Lukashenko was able to suppress mass protests against the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, but the pro-democratic opposition remains prominent abroad and its networks within the country are still strong. Minsk has also faced recent physical and cyber partisan attacks on infrastructure.

"Lukashenko does not intend to enter the war in Ukraine due to the possibility of renewed domestic unrest if his security apparatus weakened through participation in a costly war in Ukraine," ISW wrote. "Committing a substantial amount of that security apparatus to the war in Ukraine would likely leave Lukashenko open to renewed unrest and resistance."

"Lukashenko is also likely aware that invading Ukraine would undermine his credibility as the leader of a sovereign country as it would be evident that Russia's effort to secure full control of Belarus had succeeded."


Even if Lukashenko was to ignore such risks, his military "would not be able to do more than draw Ukrainian ground forces away from other parts of the theater temporarily given the extremely limited effective combat power at Minsk's disposal," ISW wrote.

"ISW has previously assessed that a Russian or Belarusian offensive from Belarus would not be able to cut Ukrainian logistical lines to the West without projecting deeper into Ukraine than Russian forces did during the Battle of Kyiv, when Russian forces were at their strongest," the report read. "A Belarusian invasion could not make such a drive, nor could it seriously threaten Kyiv."

"Belarus will continue to help Russia fight its war in Ukraine even though Lukashenko is highly unlikely to send his army to join the fighting," the report concluded. "Belarus can offer material to Russia that Russia cannot otherwise source due to international sanctions regimes against the Russian Federation that do not impact Belarus."

nto action.


Post a Comment