Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hybrid aggression is just the beginning. Is Russia preparing for a big war?

Tensions on the Belarusian-Polish border raise a logical question for many: what’s next? After all, the residents of the border areas are most afraid not of migrants, but that the crisis will escalate into a full-fledged military conflict. Can Lukashenka start an armed conflict? And does the Kremlin need it?

Poland is defending itself against the flow of illegal migrants who are being pushed to storm the border by Lukashenka’s barrier units, and the illegitimate leader of Belarus is trying to expose it as an act of aggression and receive military assistance from Russia.

“Now I am telling your president that I need our 500-kilometer missile systems here. “Iskander”. I need a few divisions on the west, on the south, let them stand. It is 500 kilometres, because our Polonaise is up to 300 kilometres,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

But it is clear that if Putin gives Lukashenka such an expensive weapon as “Iskander”, he will complete it with his soldiers. And this option now no longer looks completely unbelievable.

Roman Polko, retired division general, Poland:

“It is clear that this situation was inspired by Putin. After all, he deploys his forces in Belarus, builds Russian military potential there. The Russian army perceives Belarus as its territory. And this is a further attempt to return Russia to the status of a world power. Forces are also concentrated near Ukraine. There are attempts to implement the scenario of destabilization in Ukraine, bringing it to the fall of the government to put his vassal there.”

The spread of the Russian military presence in Belarus is really impressive. First, the so-called training and combat center near the border with Poland and the duty in Belarus of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems and Su-30 aircraft, and now – a sudden exercise on the border and a patrol in Belarus of Russian strategic bombers Su-22M3.

Marus Lavrynavičius, independent military analyst, Lithuania:

“We have been seeing this since the beginning of the year. And this is much more important than public speeches about the union agreement and all these signed road maps. What is happening in the military sphere is real. And these are bigger steps towards even greater integration, and, I would say, the military takeover of Belarus, than what is being done at the political level.”

Lukashenka’s propaganda is already openly frightening the West with Russian weapons.

“But if children’s tears do not bring you to consciousness, then the Tu-22M3 strategic aircraft of the military and space forces of the Russian Federation will do it. You can throw away your NATO scrap metal,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

By the way, it should be recalled that during the exercise “West-2021” in September, Russian bombers actually practiced a breakthrough into Poland and the destruction of missile defense. Now Russia has not only increased its presence in Belarus but has also drawn more than 90,000 troops to the border with Ukraine.

Volodymyr Horbach, a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation:

“With these transformations and regroupings, Russia is creating strike groups specifically formatted for offensive hostilities. But concerns in Ukraine and the world about possible Russian aggression are dictated not only by observations of military maneuvers. Most likely, the findings of Western countries say that the attack on Ukraine is being prepared at the political level.”

And while Western Europe is focusing on the humanitarian aspect of the migration crisis, the Kremlin is trying to gain a security advantage. And not just directly in the military dimension: the hybrid confrontation between Russia and the West is already in full swing.

Roman Polko, retired division general, Poland:

“NATO declarations say that the war in cyberspace is the reason for activating Art. 5 NATO. And the information conflict and the war in cyberspace are really going on. And NATO is considering consultation instead of concrete action. And I’m not talking about the need to send tanks to the Belarusian-Polish border, although a demonstration of force in response to the relevant actions of Russia would be useful.

Experts agree that such actions by the Kremlin, aimed at forcing the West to negotiate on Putin’s terms, are pure blackmail and an attempt to intimidate.

Volodymyr Horbach, a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Ukraine:

“The Russian side will not go for direct large-scale aggression but will try to create the preconditions for this: to undermine the political and economic situation and energy security inside Ukraine. Create instability, weaken the central government. And try the special operations of the hybrid war, which they carried out in 2014 when Russian special forces can seize office buildings in the north and east, and only then Russian troops under the guise of peacekeepers will protect them from the actions of Ukrainian security forces.”

Marius Lavrynavičius, independent military analyst, Lithuania:

“We have to prepare for a long-term confrontation, one of the parts of which is the military threat. Of course, the Kremlin prepares for a serious war with NATO and we must be ready for defense. But this is a long-term perspective.”

At the same time, it should be understood that the local conflict at the border may be part of Lukashenka’s plan to declare martial law in Belarus in connection with the attack on the country and completely remove from the agenda such painful issues as constitutional reform, referendum and common voting day.

Roman Polko, retired division general, Poland:

“Lukashenka, while in power, is completely unpredictable. And he can just arm groups of migrants on the border with Poland and force them to conduct typical military operations. In an act of despair and defense of his own positions, if he heard that his position on the territory of Belarus is under threat, he would most likely be able to cross another red line.”

In addition, if the armed forces of different parties to the conflict are located close to each other, the human factor may come into play.

Marius Lavrynavičius, independent military analyst, Lithuania:

“We have armed forces on both sides of the border. There may be various provocations, which will not necessarily be planned by the Kremlin or Minsk. There may be mistakes, anything may happen. Of course, the possibility of a military confrontation cannot be ruled out.”

The situation may be complicated by the fact that the West, Putin, and Lukashenka are trying to save face and not give up positions in the eyes of their electorate and the international community. And such situations can easily lure the sides into a trap of a conflict that, at first glance, is not beneficial to anyone.

Zmitser Mitskevich for the PraSviet program

Photo collage: Mikhail Metzel / TASS / Forum