With NATO expanding and increasing its bellicosity Russia needed to react. One move is the integration Belarus into its defense sphere. The other is an increase of its military force to cover new threats towards its northwest.
Belarus seems to be a small country when compared to Russia.
But its actually of pretty decent sized country, with roughly 500 kilometer (300 miles) diameter from border to border. It has well established heavy industries and some interesting commodities like potash. Its population of 9.5 million people is highly educated. For Russia it is an important buffer state and the supply route to its exclave around Kaliningrad.
In June of 2020 we saw the first signs of a U.S. engineered ‘color revolution’ in Belarus. At the beginning of August the protests took off. But just two weeks later the attempt to overthrow the long term leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, was ended. Russia had come to the rescue of the Belorussian government after it had agreed to finally implement the Union State:
In 1999 Russia and Belarus signed a treaty to form a Union State out of Russia and Belarus. It would include free movement, a common defense and economic integration as well as a union parliament. But since then Lukashenko has dragged his feet on the issue. At the end of the last year Putin pressed him again to finally execute the deal. When Lukashenko rejected that Putin shut off the country’s economic lifeline from Russia. Belarus did no longer receive subsidized Russian oil that it could refine and sell at market prices to the ‘west’. Lukashenko then tried to make nice with the ‘west’. He bought U.S. fracking oil. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Minsk. In March the U.S. reopened its embassy in Belarus.
But now the ‘west’ which Lukashenko had tried to coddle with is trying to get him killed. Every U.S. embassy is also a U.S. regime change base. He would have been better off without one.
As he was the target of an ongoing U.S. led regime change operation, and with economic pressure in direct sight, Lukashenko obviously needed help. Today he finally wised up and capitulated to Moscow on the Union State issue.
It did not take long for Putin to respond. Some 6 hours after the above Reuters report the Kremlin published a note about a Telephone conversation with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (emphasis added):
Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the initiative of the Belarusian side.
Alexander Lukashenko informed Vladimir Putin about the developments following the presidential election in Belarus. Both sides expressed confidence that all existing problems will be settled soon. The main thing is to prevent destructive forces from using these problems to cause damage to mutually beneficial relations of the two countries within the Union State.
In connection with the return to Russia of 32 people who were previously detained in Belarus, a positive assessment was given to close cooperation of the relevant agencies in this regard.
They also agreed on further regular contacts at various levels, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening allied relations, which fully meets the core interests of the fraternal nations of Russia and Belarus.
It seems to me that Putin accepted the deal. Lukashenko, and his police, will not hang from a pole. Russia will take care of the problem and the Union State will finally be established.
That does not mean that the color revolution attempt is over. The U.S. and its lackey Poland will not just pack up and leave. But with the full backing from Russia assured, Lukashenko can take the necessary steps to end the riots.
Since then there have been several meetings between Lukashenko and Putin and important parts of Union State agreement have been implemented. Two days ago the latest summit took place in Minsk. In a press conference both leaders empathized their economic cooperation but also mentioned defense issues. With the war in Ukraine ongoing and potential NATO involvement these have become increasingly important.
Belarus has received a number of high end weapon systems and, as Putin announced, will also soon be able to use Russian nukes:
I would like to remind you that, as part of the consistent implementation of the Russia-Belarus military doctrine, we work on joint military planning and have an operational Russia-Belarus regional force grouping. Our countries’ divisions and military units currently undergo coordination training in Belarus. We have created a joint air defence system that is already on combat duty. We have agreed to continue taking all necessary measures to ensure the security of our countries, prioritising training of the troops, improving their combat readiness and continuing the practice of regular joint exercise and other operational and combat training events, mutual supplies of essential weapons and producing new military equipment together.
I believe it is also possible to continue implementing President Lukashenko’s proposal on training the Belarusian Army combat aircraft crews that have been re-equipped for potential use of air-launched ammunition with special warheads. I want to stress that this form of cooperation is not our invention. For example, the United States have conducted similar activities with their NATO allies for decades. These coordinated measures are extremely important in view of the tensions at the external borders of the Union State.
Lukashenko was a bit more specific:
A special thank you, and not just on my behalf or on the part of the military, for fulfilling your promise. Today, an S-400 complex you transferred to Belarus was put on combat duty. Even more importantly, we received an Iskander complex you promised us six months ago.
You have just raised a very sensitive issue, approaching it with great caution. However, you were right to note that we were not the ones who started it. I am talking about training our air force crews in handling special weapons and special warheads. I must tell you that we have prepared our aircraft. It turns out we have had these planes since the Soviet era. We tested them in the Russian Federation and are now working with the Russians to train our crews to pilot planes carrying special warheads. By doing so we are not threatening anyone. I have informed you on several occasions, including during our meetings in St Petersburg, Moscow and in Sochi, that we have major concerns regarding what you call tension along the borders of the Union State, primarily in the West. We felt the need to ensure the security of the Belarusian state. You have made a resolute and very important step to support Belarus. Once again, thank you very much.
Belarus is now protected by a first class long range air defense system, the S-400. It has medium range precision strike capabilities due to Iskander missiles. The air and ground forces of the two militaries are now under a common command. Belorussian planes will soon be able to use nuclear armed missiles and cruise missiles against NATO ground targets.
The Belorussian military is quite small. Its army has only 40,000 soldiers of which less then half are potential frontline units. This is one reason why Belarus is unlikely to join the war in Ukraine. It has long borders with NATO countries that need protection and, without activating reservists, the number of troops it has are barely enough for that purpose. But an Iskander missile fired from Belarus can cover all of Poland which is now NATO’s main concentration area for an eventual escalation.
With Russia now backing it Belarus can feel secure. To Russia the Union State means that it has secured an additional 500 kilometer of buffer zone between NATO borders and Moscow.
The move will be welcome in Russia but it does not solve all of Russia’s NATO problems. The entering of Sweden and Finland into the U.S. proxy organization has created new ones. It is the reason why the Russian Minister of Defense today announced a significant expansion of the Russian military:
During a Russian Defense Ministry meeting on Wednesday, Shoigu proposed a number of measures to strengthen the security of the Russian Federation, including creating a special grouping of troops on the country’s northwestern border and expanding Russia’s armed forces to amount to 1.5 million servicemen in total, with some 695,000 of them being contract soldiers.
Shoigu’s comments come as Helsinki and Stockholm have submitted bids to join NATO, citing a perceived threat from Russia in light of its ongoing military operation in Ukraine.
Shoigu went on to suggest creating a number of new military groupings, including five new artillery divisions, eight bomber aviation regiments, and one fighter regiment, as well as six army aviation brigades.
Previously the Russian military had about 1 million soldiers. Altogether this is a very significant increase with a lot of punching power. Such a growth of manpower and the acquiring the necessary equipment will take at least five years.
I seriously doubt that NATO will be able to match it.