The Russian military presence in Belarus: Putin wants to threaten NATO

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna: In September will take place the Belarusian-Russian exercises “West-2017”. What about them can tell?


Arseny sivitsky: the planning Process is just beginning, so we don’t know. However, the approach to training has changed. Russia believes that these exercises will be a response to increased NATO presence in the Baltic States and Poland. The Belarusian authorities don’t want maneuvers contributed to the destabilization of the region and therefore believe that their scale must not differ from the scale of the exercise 2009 or 2013. Minsk wants they involved no more than 15 thousand soldiers, of which up to five thousand Russians. The presence of NATO at our borders is limited, so Belarus did not see an immediate threat. Max is a risk factor.

– That it is at odds with Russia.


— For the Kremlin, the emergence of four battalions, NATO is the impact on strategic stability, although these forces do not upset the balance of power in the region. Russia is trying to exploit tensions in the relations with the Alliance to strengthen its impact on Belarus and turn it into a springboard to put pressure on NATO, the EU and Ukraine. Therefore, it seeks to place on the Belarusian territory a large army. “West-2017” will allow them to transfer. So, under the guise of exercises Russia in recent years has deployed forces, which were afterwards used for aggressive actions against neighbors.

– Is there a risk that after the exercises, these troops would not leave Belarus?


— The Belarusian authorities do not want to allow that on our territory there were foreign bases, but the Kremlin without consulting with us, everything is already planned out. At the end of last year, there were official reports that the Ministry of defence prepared for shipment to Belarus 4 162 of the carriage.


– To be able to put pressure on Ukraine from the North?


— Not only. The question is, how far are willing to go Vladimir Putin to continue the escalation. Belarus needs him to threaten the territory of NATO, including the poles and the Baltic States, and Ukraine. The Russians have not agreed with us a number of cars. They act like in 2015, when Putin signed a decree on the establishment of bases in Belarus, although we he was denied. For exercises would have been enough two battalion tactical groups, possibly teams. 400, not 4,000 cars. Apparently, the Kremlin has its own plans, which go beyond simple participation in the exercises.


– Topic databases appeared in 2013.


In preparation for the war with Ukraine.


– Maidan, but they already appropriated for the war with Ukraine?


— As soon as Russia realized that Kiev after the signing of the Association agreement with the EU can leave its sphere of influence, she began to prepare for possible scenarios. Base on our territory was part of the most radical of them. We don’t know what would conflict with Ukraine, if we were already Russian troops.

– The Russians in 2013 said the issue of bases has been solved, and Belarusians claimed that they did not know about this.


— Our European sources say that Russian diplomats tell wherever they can that Lukashenka has agreed to a military presence. It’s not true. This operation aims to destroy emerging in the context of normalization of relations trust Europe to Minsk.


– To the decision to begin to thaw Lukashenko made Russian pressure or, on the contrary, the thaw was the reason for Russian pressure?


— Are interrelated phenomena. What the Ukrainian crisis? Ukraine had strategic relations with Russia, on its territory were Russian troops. Russia was obliged in law to respect her independence and territorial integrity. However, this did not prevent military invasion. If Moscow has behaved in relation to one of a friendly state, it cannot be excluded that it will take similar action in respect of Belarus. Therefore, we are interested in developing relations with the West and China. But it tips the Kremlin, which sees in such processes a threat to Russian interests in the medium term, to provide on Belarus additional economic, energy, military-political and information pressure. So close to our borders, there are new infantry forces: the division in the Yelnya and the team in Klintsy. On the eve of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, we have seen a lot of similar steps.


– Ukrainian army was cooperation with the Russian and Belarus are practically integrated…


— Belarus drew conclusions. In 2014 there is a new defense plan, which takes into account the threat from the East. The President signed the plan of national defence which these threats are also mentioned. In 2015 we have adopted a military doctrine. We do not call Russia as a source of destabilization, but write that there are States that threaten the sovereignty of European countries. The concept of “hybrid war” in document is not used, but we write about the internal armed conflict. Synonyms.


Apparently, in this context, the Minister of defence became Andrei Ravkov, the former commander of the special operations forces?


— Additionally, in September 2016 exercise was conducted, the script was the conflict in the Donbass. This is our answer. The Kremlin increasingly imposes on us military issues instead of economic. We are not interested in this, especially since we have nothing to gain. The decree, which was unilaterally signed by Putin, does not provide for the payment for the base.


– Lukashenko for 20 years used the Pro-Russian rhetoric. If he could now count on the loyalty of the army and its resistance to the propaganda of the “Russian world”?


— No one was prepared for the fact that Russia will attack on a friendly state. The situation changed radically. We now have without much publicity is held rotation of personnel, to exclude potential defectors, which we observed during the annexation of Crimea. We can’t do this more forcefully, since Russia will realize that losing their assets, and it may provoke her to more radical steps. We started soft Belarusization, which is strengthening the position of the Belarusian language and culture.


But if not for the 20 years of the Pro-Russian rhetoric, perhaps now you do not have problems with Russia?


— This can partly agree. Belarus voluntarily integrated with Russia. The basis for this process of integration has served Renta: Minsk received in exchange of oil and gas on domestic prices. Then Russia, Belarus without warning, invaded the Ukraine. Began to appear once the barriers to influence the Belarusian government. The Russian elite are questioning the appropriateness of the existence of the sovereign Belarus. In conditions, when Lukashenko need to follow the course of the Kremlin, on the further integration of speech can not be. Minsk have to adjust the politics of the last 20 years to maintain independence. This does not mean that it was a mistake, just times have changed.


Your analysis resonate in the manual?


They are created in two versions: an open, published on the Internet, and closed that falls to the authority and command of the army. I can’t say that we are getting some feedback, but I have a feeling that once actions are taken, we suggest, we read.