Pavel Felgenhauer: "Situation in Belarus is in a pre-war state"
Yesterday, in an interview with Russian media, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the republic is not going to join NATO, otherwise it will turn into a theater of military operations between Russia and the Alliance; in addition, he stressed that Minsk would join the war on Moscow's side if the aggression against Russia will be initiated by the West. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with military observer Pavel Felgenhauer about the current military situation in Belarus.
- In your opinion, is there any military conflict between the West and Belarus and Russia?
- Overall, right the situation is in a pre-war state, it is obvious. We can say that we are in a special period when all sides are very active, which means that confrontation is possible. The current situation is quite serious. Lukashenko, of course, was not talking about this, he tried to show that he's a loyal ally of Russia, and therefore he should stay in power. But I think that Lukashenko will leave, because he has shown several times that he's a very unreliable ally.
- Can Belarusian authorities stabilize the situation in the country by themselves?
- Lukashenko himself is unable to deal with stabilizing the situation, since his power resource is very small. We are talking about 60 thousand servicemen, of which 46 thousand are in reserve, including conscripts, about ten thousand. There are only two mechanized brigades and three brigades of airborne and special forces, only two thousand people. It's just not enough. Lukashenko didn't spend much on the armed forces since he preferred to spend money on special services, internal troops and the police.
As a result, calling on the reserve right now would bring a disaster, because they can turn their weapons against him. Even in the internal troops there are many conscripts who are not ready to fight. Several thousand people will defend Lukashenko, so if destabilization will continue it will be extremely difficult for him to preserve the balance, especially in the long term.
- Can Russia really send its troops or security forces to suppress protest actions in Belarus?
- This is possible because, as I said, it doesn’t look like Lukashenko could handle the situation. In addition, although the Belarusian opposition to Moscow is unpleasant, the president of Belarus has become equally unpleasant to her. Therefore, some variant of Lukashenko’s replacement is likely, and Russian troops and security forces may appear in the republic to stabilize the situation. Lukashenko, by the way, said that there would be no union of the two states, that this was impossible - such a position for Moscow is absolutely unacceptable, since the Union State, in fact, the incorporation of Belarus in one form or another is the main strategic goal of Russia.
- Will Russia provide military assistance to Belarus within the framework of the CSTO?
- The CSTO is a kind of formal structure that can be used for Russia to explain its future actions in Belarus. Although, probably, it will be difficult to do, since for any action within the CSTO, the unanimity of the member states is necessary, and I doubt that Kazakhstan, for example, will agree to the introduction of troops into Belarus.
- You said that Alexander Lukashenko proved to be an unreliable ally. Are you talking about the detention of Russians before the elections?
- It was a serious incident that showed Lukashenko's infidelity to Russia. Now he is officially supported in Russia, but according to publications in the Russian media, including those loyal to the authorities, it is clear that they do not trust him at all. That is why the situation is so difficult: spending gigantic money and efforts just to keep Lukashenko in power is no better than allowing the opposition to take power.