As Russian hopes for a quick victory in Ukraine fade, the Belarusian regime is trying to distance itself from the Kremlin’s actions.
Over the past week, Lukashenka has repeatedly returned to the topic of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the possibility of Belarusian forces being drawn in. He stated that:
- the Belarusian army will not participate in the war in Ukraine, and the Kremlin has made no such request;
- the Kremlin notified Minsk about the use of Belarusian territory for the attack on Ukraine when action had already commenced;
- drawing Belarus into the war is in the interests of the West since if the Belarusian army is bogged down in Ukraine, it will be unable to deter an attack from NATO.
In addition, Minsk has always advocated peace and is ready to contribute all its influence to pursue this goal.
Consequently, holding negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow on Belarusian territory and countering the Western “threat” should pre-empt Moscow’s steps (if any) to draw Belarus into direct hostilities against Ukraine.
Clearly, Minsk did not anticipate the steadfastness of Ukrainian resistance or the strength and speed of the Western response to Russian aggression. The Kremlin likely had no intention of involving the Belarusian army in the invasion of Ukraine, assuming a swift and comprehensive victory unaided.
As Russian hopes for a quick victory fade, the Belarusian regime will attempt to distance itself further from the Kremlin. This is not a matter of seeking to normalise relations with the West (Lukashenka has no such illusions); it is an attempt to avoid being sucked into a whirlpool of new sanctions alongside Moscow.
Minsk is clearly aiming to mitigate the damage caused by the use of Belarusian territory for aggression against Ukraine and hopes to avoid making a bad situation worse.