The threat of Belarus being dragged into war remains a probability rather than an inevitability. The Belarusian regime has adapted to a liminal state “between peace and war” and even tries to exploit this. However, Minsk’s plans are only one factor in the equation.
Last week was marked by strident accusations of preparing for aggression from both Minsk and Kyiv:
- The Belarusian KGB announced that the special services of the United States, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania plan to sabotage and invade Belarusian territory and reported the apprehension of agents of Ukrainian military intelligence.
- A representative of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced the growing threat of a new Russian offensive from Belarusian territory aimed at cutting off the military supplies through western Ukraine.
- The United States believes that the primary function of Russian troops arriving in Belarus is to pull Ukrainian forces northwards, away from the Donbas and southern Ukraine.
- In Kyiv, the idea of creating a new Belarusian political axis based on Belarusian volunteer formations fighting on the side of Ukraine is gathering momentum.
However, there are currently no practical steps that would indicate an increase in the likelihood of an armed clash between Kyiv and Minsk. Given the mutual prior experience with such incidents, the spy story may serve as a basis for new discussions with a broader agenda than the fate of the detainees.
The politicisation of the Belarusian volunteer movement in Ukraine may become part of this agenda. Paradoxically, this benefits the Belarusian regime because it cultivates a split among regime opponents. The participation of a paramilitary political structure created in a warring country in internal Belarusian policy is a convenient tool for intimidating the Belarusian society, already intimidated by war, propaganda, and repression.
Belarusian-Ukrainian relations remain balanced, with an equilibrium generally acceptable for the Belarusian regime. The problem is that radical rhetoric risks accidental clashes at the grassroots level, regardless of third-party interventions. The Russian military command will try to seize the initiative and go on the offensive, potentially bringing the equilibrium period to an end as early as December.