Belarus’ strategy for security cooperation with Russia could be formulated as ‘neither a step back nor one forward’. The existing format and depth of bilateral interactions are close to the maximum acceptable for Minsk.
On December 14th, 2018 Lukashenka held a press conference for the Russian media, where a lion’s share of questions was about Russo-Belarusian security cooperation. Speaking to the media, Lukashenka confirmed his previous position: the Belarusian leadership retained full control over the national military security system and was ready to develop military cooperation only in accordance with its interests and retaining independent decision making.
Within the CSTO the Belarusian army is only responsible for the Eastern European region. Minsk is unwilling to build Russian military presence in Belarus and would enable additional Russian troops on its territory only in the case of a military threat. Most important and acceptable for Belarus is the transfer of Russian military equipment to Belarus. In addition, the Belarusian president confirmed the failure of his peacemaking initiatives as regards the conflict resolution in the Donbas and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Minsk and Moscow appear to have reached a ceiling in their security cooperation, which they unlikely to overcome in the near future. Such a state of affairs is due to both, the expanding political crisis between the leadership of both states, and the lack of practical necessity. Russian Ambassador Mikhail Babich’s statement about the absence of the need to enhance Russian military presence in Belarus shows that Moscow is quite happy with the current format of military relations. This means bilateral military relations are unlikely to face sharp contradictions in the near future.