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Russia allows Minsk to demonstrate its sovereignty on military-security issues but pursues its military policy in Belarus

Russia allows Minsk to demonstrate its sovereignty on military-security issues but pursues its military policy in Belarus

By supporting Russia’s military-security interests, Lukashenka seeks to project an image of a decision-maker on an equal footing with the Kremlin. However, it is very likely that Minsk’s equivalence is often only imaginary. Belarus’ public communication is often at odds with Russia’s actual steps. However, Russia itself increases Lukashenka’s political legitimacy by backing up his claims of joint decision-making.

For example, it was publicly announced that the Russian military grouping deployed in Belarus prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was supposedly there because of military training organised at Lukashenka’s suggestion in order to strengthen Belarusian security. When Russia started sending mobilised troops to Belarus for training in autumn of 2022, Lukashenka and Putin presented this as the activation of a Regional Military Grouping to protect the borders of the Union State, but the observed joint activity with the Belarusian Armed Forces was highly symbolic. In July 2023, when the Russian ground forces contingent left Belarus, the regime continued to emphasise external threats and announced it was looking forward to a new rotation of Russian troops. However, in the second half of the year, no more Russian ground troops arrived in Belarus. This case shows that in some cases Belarus is forced to interpret Russia’s actions on its territory, probably without always knowing exactly what Russia intends. The deployment of Russian NSNW in Belarus is also presented by both sides as Lukashenka’s initiative, but it is very likely that this process is primarily a matter of Russia’s interests being served by taking advantage of Minsk’s dependence.

The defence ministers of Russia and Belarus sign an agreement to establish conditions for the deployment of NSNW EPA / Scanpix
Agreements signed in recent years legalising Russia’s military presence in Belarus

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