Russian-Belarusian Reunification and Invasion of Western Ukraine?

Belarus offered its territory as a springboard for Russian troops to invade Ukraine. It has also been used as a staging ground for the Russian military [source]. A potential Union State between Belarus and Russia would extend Russia’s borders directly the NATO’s eastern flank with Poland. President Putin is now claiming that both countries have “accelerated” the unification process [source]. Questions are now being raised over potential Belarusian participation in the war.

KJ-1: It is highly likely that western sanctions will drive Belarus and Russia to form a unified political entity within the next 6 months.

  • The Union State between Russia and Belarus has been in existence since 1999, but Belarus has maintained a wide latitude of independence since then and preserved its sovereignty [source]. 
  • Putin and Lukashenko met in November of 2021 to discuss a 28-point program for Union State integration [source]. 
  • The 2021 meeting followed a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and the subsequent sanctions which were placed on Belarus [source].
  • President Putin has stated that Belarus and Russia will accelerate the process of unification in order to mitigate the effect of western sanctions related to the war in Ukraine [source]. 
  • Belarus is highly dependent on Russia, half of all imports to Belarus came from Russia in 2021 [source].
  • Belarus was included in the enlarged export control package issued by the White House in March. This was due to its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [source].
  • The UK government followed suit this month with its own sanctions package on Belarusian crude, electronics and other critical industry products [source].

KJ-2: There is a realistic probability that Belarus will commit troops to the Ukrainian conflict in the next 6 months.

  • Russian troops used Belarusian territory and military installations to conduct drills prior to the war. In turn, these drills were used to pre-position thousands of Russian troops in preparation for invasion [source].
  • Russian troops attacked Ukraine from Belarus and joined the advance in Kiev. Artillery and rocket fire is also confirmed to have originated from Belarus [source].
  • President Lukashenko has said that his country may join the war against Ukraine [source].
  • Civilian authorities in Lviv have accordingly begun preparing for a potential attack from Belarus [source].
  • Roman Kostenko, a Ukrainian parliamentarian and officer in the Ukrainian special forces (UASOF), stated that the Ukrainian leadership is concerned about the prospect of Belarus joining the war [source]. 
  • Kostenko believes that Belarusian troops would provide cover for a second Russian assault on Kiev [source].
  • President Lukashenko announced the creation of a Southern Operational Command last month. Additional units have been deployed close to the border to staff the new command [source]. 
  • The Ukrainian General Staff claims that Belarus is increasing its troop number from 45,000 to 80,000 active personnel [source].
  • Large portions of the general Belarusian public oppose the war. Acts of sabotage on Russian military units have occurred in Belarus [source]. 
  • Moreover, there is a foreign volunteer unit of Belarusian expatriates fighting in Ukraine [source]. Thousands of Belarusians have thus left Belarus for Lithuania under the pretext of escaping future conscription [source].
  • While Lukashenko is reliant on the Kremlin for support, joining the war in Ukraine would place the decayed Belarusian military under enormous pressure [source]. 

KJ-3: It is highly likely that Belarus will continue provocative actions against EU and NATO countries within the next 6 months.

  • Lukashenko seeks to cultivate deeper ties with Moscow to maintain his hold on power. Russian forces were instrumental in suppressing pro-democracy protests in 2020 [source]. 
  • Belarus forced the landing of Ryanair flight 4978 while it was en route from Greece to Lithuania after fabricating a bomb threat [source]. 
  • After the aircraft landed in Minsk, the Belarusian security service arrested two prominent Belarusian journalists aboard [source]. 
  • In April, the US Department of Commerce announced that the Belarusian national carrier was violating export administration regulations by flying seven Boeing 737s to Minsk [source]. 
  • Lithuania decided to erect a border fence after Belarusian border troops forced roughly two dozen migrant from Belarus into Lithuanian territory [source]. 
  • Lithuania wants the EU community to level restraints and sanctions on Belarus for using refugees as political bargaining chips [source].
  • Belarusian provocations using the flow of migrants occurred last year in Poland as well. This culminated in a Belarusian border guard firing a flare gun at Polish troops [source].  
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