While NATO is staging the “Anaconda-16” exercises in Poland, Russian airforce conducts reconaissance flights over the territory of Belarus and has been redeploying the 28th separate motorized rifle brigade of the Russian armed forces in May 2016 from their base in Yekaterinburg to Klintsy near the border with Belarus. Some of the members of the brigade already have combat experience from Ukraine (2014-campaign). A Russian major and member of the brigade was quoted in media reports as being convinced they were there to prevent a further westward-leaning of the country, if necessary using military force.
Dictator Lukashenka also felt obliged to state this week: “I see that today the Russian government is taking whatever action is appropriate in a westerly direction, I mean that we have a joint group of forces in the west, which ensures the safety of our motherland – Belarus and Russia. This group is based on the Belarusian army units. In case of a conflict, they are the first to come into battle, bringing an opportunity for the troops concentrated in the west of the Russian Federation to catch up shortly.”
We also have to keep in mind that Russia has been speeding up the issue of an airbase in eastern Belarus, at Babruysk. “InformNapalm” wrote in December 2015: […] the Russian military leadership develops a plan to create a group of land forces, located in Belarus ca. 500 km westwards from the RF border. This will provide a strategic advantage for building up the defensive line on Belarusian lodgment and give an opportunity to control the land corridor to Kaliningrad. Then the realization of the Crimean scenario in Belarus will enter its final stage.” (this leaves the issue of the “Suwalki Gap” still open – however in order to become active on the issue, full control of Belarus would be recommendable).
In November 2015, some observers had warned Russia’s next adventure might be to return Belarus “home” to Russia.
As we know Russia has focused action on weak neighbors – in terms of military strength and international support. Western support for Belarus is practically nonexistent, due to the cultural-economic-political orientation of President Lukashenka and his entourage towards Russia, and the lack of energy resources interesting to the west. In regard to militiary strength, the situation is also alarming:
High-ranking members of the Belarussian army have been born and/or educated in Russia – according to the data “InformNapalm” presented, all persons belonging to the higher command of the army had a “Russian background”. Additionally persons who support Russia have a far better military training than their “Belarussian” counterparts: They have been organized, trained and/or participated in active combat. Reports of “InformNapalm” indicate members of the Belarussian army have been part of illegal armed groups on the territory of Ukraine in 2014. Also members of the border guards of Belarus apparently have been recruited in order to work for Russia (i.e. in the case of an “emergency” their loyalties would be with Russia).
In November 2015, it again had been underlined young people in Belarus have been trained in special “military-patriotic” clubs to be fighters for Russia and the Russian world – the issue had been also in the media around October 2014 in order to point to the problem of Russia preparing and training diversionist groups in all countries of the former Soviet Union. At the end of 2015, “InformNapalm” had pointed to the existence of some 20 groups in Belarus, operating with the consent of local authorities; some military summer camps had been backed by authorities from the interior and defense ministry, and the Russian Orthodox Church had been providing ideological support in order to train young people for war.
All this information prompted “InformNapalm” to underline in later 2015 that a great part of the military-political government of Belarus were “agents” of Russian influence. The last news on the issue were noting a significant presence of Russian Cossack groups and military training camps around the city of Grodno in western Belarus in February 2016. Additionally, there have been multiple reports of concerned citizens in Belarus on persons with Russian military uniforms and/or “green men” with Russian flags staging provocative events in Belarus in May 2016. Apparently, the authorities did nothing to prevent the actions of the supporters of the “Russian world”.