In early February, the Crimea.Realities published review of Belarusian experts on the subject of what their country may become the next target of the Kremlin. According to the analysis made by the head of the Minsk Center for strategic and foreign policy studies Arseniy Siwicki, “hybrid war” of Moscow against Belarus is already in its active phase, and strikingly reminiscent of the “Ukrainian” scenario.
According to the analyst, the recent visit of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi from 15 to 26 Feb exposes relations between Minsk and Moscow in an even more ambiguous light, as the Kremlin has increasingly severe pressure on the Belarusian government.
“In February 2013, the chief of the General staff of the Russian Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov has published a report on the conduct of the hybrid, or asymmetrical, war (the”Gerasimov Doctrine”), which Russia successfully tested during the occupation of Crimea and conflict with Ukraine. Gerasimov believes that the rules of war in our time has changed, and the line between war and peace is blurred, and therefore, the role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals. This new type of conflict relies heavily on political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non-military methods used in coordination with the use of the discontent and protest of the atmosphere among the population. All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including the dissemination of hostile information and the deployment of special forces — as was done in the Crimea and the Donbass”, — said Arseniy sivitsky.
Gerasimov’s model describes six stages of conflict: latent emergence, exacerbation, initiation of action conflict, crisis, resolution, and finally the restoration of peace (post-conflict resolution). According to Savickogo, relations between Russia and Belarus, despite the formal Union of the two States are already at the third stage of this scheme.
“The Kremlin extends its influence in various spheres, primarily for security services, the bureaucracy, and even among some NGOs and opposition groups. Moscow systematically enhances political and diplomatic pressure on Belarus from the beginning of its conflict with Ukraine and the West, and called on Minsk to take sides in a new cold war. Also she is actively trying to establish its military presence on the territory of Belarus, thereby turning it into a military Outpost for Russia”, — said Arseniy sivitsky in an interview with the Crimea.Realities.
“In this context, it is noteworthy that when the Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov during the session of the Eurasian intergovernmental Council in Bishkek on 7 March raised the question about necessity of implementation of the agreements underlying the integration, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told him that Russia “does not hold” in the EEU. In fact, the first publicly admitted that he is ready for the continuation of Eurasian integration on its own terms, which include strengthening the political and especially military-political component in the integration processes. This not only confirms the seriousness of the situation, which turned out to be Belarus, but also says that in Belarus, Russia will not stop,” explained sivitsky.
In addition, the expert noted, this method of pressure on Minsk, as economic sanctions and the constant trade wars and restrictions imposed on Belarusian goods on the Russian market, disputes over gas prices and inadequate supplies of Russian oil to Belarus. For example, from January 2017, Gazprom has increased the gas price for Belarus by 6.81% (up to $ 141,1 per 1,000 cubic meters).
Also, the analyst noted that Moscow could try to exploit popular discontent and running in Belarus protests, and to send troops to “restore constitutional order”.
“The impression that the Kremlin is through campaigns of information warfare is preparing the Russian public opinion to a serious crisis in Belarusian-Russian relations. The reports of some journalists about Belarus in Russian media are clear Parallels with the situation in Ukraine. They argue that the West is allegedly trying to tear Belarus from Russia, and predict country instability in the Ukrainian style, because “Western intelligence agencies are preparing a color revolution to overthrow Alyaksandr Lukashenka.” Other stories focused on the “growth of nationalism and Russophobia in the Belarusian society”. There is a feeling that Moscow is preparing the ground for a possible invasion,” notes sivitsky.
The analyst also suggests increasing military threat, in particular, the deployment of two mechanized brigades of the Russian armed forces in the Yelnya and Moscow near the Belarusian border.
“These teams are very well suited for the hypothetical intervention in the crisis under the guise of, for example, a joint anti-terrorist operation. In addition, Russia continues to strengthen border controls and infrastructure at the Belarusian border, and the deployment of operational units of the FSB border service. In February 2017 were created and units of the Federal customs service. Officially, they are designed to protect the Russian market from Western products under embargo, but can easily escalate into a full economic blockade. The impression that the conflict between Belarus and Russia can easily move to the next stage of the crisis, if the injection continues. The main question is whether the Kremlin is preparing for this kind of confrontation in the relations with Belarus, or simply uses threats and crude blackmail to achieve political goals and concessions?” — asks the expert.