A new Russian offensive against Ukraine will be a test of Minsk’s independence in the eyes of the West.
The Russian-Ukrainian war gives rise to wild psychological swings on the part of newsmakers and their audience. Enthusiasm for the expected Ukrainian offensive is replaced by anxiety regarding the current Russian offensive and vice versa.
Ukraine and the West have intensified discussions regarding the possibility of Belarus entering the war or a need Russian offensive from Belarusian territory. In the coming weeks, we can expect significant attention to this topic, especially in light of:
- Lukashenka’s statements regarding joint training of Belarusian and Russian troops on Belarusian territory;
- Reports that Belarus-trained Russian units are being sent to the front.
- Commander-in-Chief of Russian Ground Forces and deputy head of the “special military operation”, Oleg Salyukov’s inspection visit to Russian troops in Belarus.
Meanwhile, Kyiv is conducting an information campaign aimed at the Belarusian military-political leadership to ensure they are aware that a renewed Russian invasion from Belarusian territory will cause the Ukrainian Defence Forces to retaliate proactively against Belarusian targets. There is a high probability that this is not only a psychological tactic but also a warning about the real intentions of Kyiv.
The Russian offensive against Ukraine will test Minsk’s autonomy in the West’s eyes. A repeat of the February 2022 scenario will be seen as an absence of this. If the current format of Belarusian-Russian military cooperation persists as matters at the front escalate, this will indicate some Belarusian autonomy in matters of war and peace.
So far, Minsk is a “mirror image” of the position of NATO countries, who support Ukraine but do not directly involve themselves in the war. However, the situation remains very fluid.