Early this week the US State Department said there were no signs that Russia’s military plans to intervene in ongoing chaotic events in Belarus where swelling protests in the tens of thousands have brought Minsk to a standstill as opposition activists and strikers demand 26-year ruling President Alexander Lukashenko step down, or at least hold “fair” and not “rigged” elections.
As of last Monday Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said there were no indications to suggest Moscow planned to intervene in the political crisis, which many see as resembling the 2014 crisis in Ukraine where the country was split between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions and interests.
That assessment might have changed by end of the week, as regional headlines have confirmed Russia’s military is assisting Belarus in conducting war games on Thursday, Friday, and into next week.
What’s more is that President Putin announced that a new Russian “reserve force” has been established specifically to potentially respond to the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Belarus.
As independent Moscow Times explains:
Russian and Belarusian recon troops conducted joint assault exercises Thursday, the day that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the formation of a “law enforcement reserve” standing by in case anti-government protests escalate in Belarus.
And the report says further of the war games which has Russian participation that, “The exercises are part of the 10-day international army games that Belarus hosts at an army base in Brest on the Polish border amid ongoing protests against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. A unit from outside Moscow represents a team of Russian reconnaissance soldiers at the games.”
Recall that Lukashenko has not only repeatedly claimed “NATO is at the gates” while mobilizing Belarusian troops to the border (something which NATO has denied), but he’s also touted that Moscow stands ready to militarily support him should the government come under attack from within or without.
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 28, 2020
“Putin said Thursday that he created the reserve of Russian personnel from unknown units at Lukashenko’s request,” The Moscow Times continues.
Currently, it doesn’t appear either Russia or NATO has the stomach to see the Belarusian crisis spiral out of control into an internationalized standoff or conflict in the way that Ukraine did.
But at moment, as Washington and NATO are increasingly accused of sponsoring another “color revolution”, the situation remains highly volatile and unpredictable.