In the autumn, Belarus will become the new Ukraine?

Belarus (or Belarus) — the forgotten dictatorship in Europe. Just a few hours by plane from us people live in poverty and under the yoke of political repression. The country has no outlet to the Baltic sea, but it is still should be considered a part of the area. And what is happening in Belarus has the potential to affect the development of the entire region.

Belarus is located in a strategically important location, it borders with Russia and wedged into the EU and NATO.

From the border of Belarus to Kiev in the Ukraine is less than 15 miles.

To the Russian Kaliningrad region is just over 20 miles.

To the Polish Warsaw — almost 25 miles.

And from the Belarusian Grodno to Visby — 56 miles.

In an article for SvD in 2012, I wrote: “There is reason to fear that Belarus will become one of the main sources of tension in close proximity to the EU. The lack of freedom in Belarus — a source of instability in the heart of Europe. The key issue is that the military minds Russia sees Belarus as an integral part of the Russian system of defence, and in fact the way it is. And it’s not only about air defense”.

In the article I pointed out that Russia is hardly eager to see in this country a serious change and also raised the question of how would Russia to a democratic Belarus, redirected in the organization of European cooperation. Would require the action strategy of the EU in the period the Belarusian liberation. Belarus, where the authorities could be overturned by the people’s protests and desire for democracy on the Western model, Russia would be hard to swallow, especially considering how this country is important to you, and not only in the military field.

Certainly, the Kremlin was not pleased would be an independent Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko. Gas prices, the debate about Russian military air bases in the country, the position of Ukraine, border control — these are the factors that complicate relations. Turn to the past and remember that Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was requested by Russia, which then was weaker, with much aplomb. Today Russia hardly would began to stand, despite the fact that now she has the desire and the capacity to consolidate his power over the neighborhood.

In Minsk and then there are protests against the regime, and it responds with the arrests of oppositionists. Currently, the people rally against the authorities ‘ intention to tax all who are not working full time — a kind of penalty for lack of employment. Recently Alexander Lukashenko said that “Belarus Maidan will not.”

But in Russia, have drawn Parallels with Ukraine and warned of the likely overthrow the current Belarusian authorities, what can be done with the support of forces from abroad. One of the main objectives of Russia was to prevent another color revolution to its borders, because they contradict the interests of the state. Is Russia ready to act in order to keep Lukashenko in power or, alternatively, replace it with a more compliant head of state, is not yet clear. Unknown and the presence of long-term Kremlin plans regarding the future status of Belarus.

While in Belarus, the protest is emerging evidence of large-scale movements of troops on the territory of Belarus this year. Explanation — scheduled for the autumn military exercises “West-2017”, which will be held in including and in Belarus. If the information about the scale of the movement is confirmed, “the West-2017” will definitely surpass the teachings of all previous years. The very disclosure of specific figures in connection with the transportation by rail may be a way to influence the Belarusian regime and make it compliant.

Russia, for its part, argues that its actions, such as military exercises and the strengthening of the Western borders is only the response to what Russia calls the buildup of NATO forces in the Baltic. But the rest of the world set in relation to “West-2017” very seriously. For example, the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite (Dalia Grybauskaite) warns of a possible war: “We see that the threats are different, they are increasing, we anxiously anticipated the doctrines “West-2017″, in which are concentrated a very large and aggressive force (our borders), is demonstrative preparations for war with the West.” This quote should carefully read.

The question is whether the introduction of Russian troops in Belarus will be temporary, or it is assumed that they will remain there and after the exercise. The very presence of this large military force would prevent any Belarusian attempts to show independence. Don’t know if Russia wants to maintain the current mode or to change it, but it does not affect the question of control of the country.

In addition, significant and extended Russian military presence in Belarus, would violate the balance of forces in the region. The contact area of the territories of Russia and NATO would be more. Russia would move weapons closer to the borders of the EU and NATO. It’s not just would have turned Belarus into a buffer zone between Russia and NATO, but also would strengthen Russia’s ability impact coming to her country. Time alert would be shorter, because the troops would have been close to Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

As emphasized by the President of Lithuania, to the “West” should be taken seriously — both because of the risk of errors or inadvertent escalation during the exercises and that these exercises clearly demonstrate the desire of the Kremlin to carry out maneuvers in the West. In addition, there is no certainty about the future of Belarus.

The fact that Lukashenka said that the Russian military presence — not the occupation of Belarus, and the troops after the exercises, leave the country, does not detract from the need carefully to monitor the situation.

Wall Tolgfors — Minister of trade of Sweden in 2006-2007, and the defense Minister in 2007-2012. The author of the book “Sweden in NATO” (2016).