Since the August 9th Belarus presidential election, US and EU officials have rejected the results and called on President Alexander Lukashenko to hold a fresh vote. Feeling pressure from the west, Lukashenko secured the support of his neighbor to the east, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lukashenko and Putin discussed the matter in a phone call on Saturday. According to Lukashenko, Putin told him “at the first request, Russia will provide comprehensive assistance to ensure the security of Belarus in the event of external military threats.” The Kremlin confirmed Putin offered military support to Lukashenko in a statement on Sunday.
The official results of the August 9th election gave Lukashenko 80 percent of the vote. In a speech on Sunday, Lukashenko said if he agreed to a new round of elections, Belarus “will die as a state, as a people, as a nation.” Lukashenko also warned of a NATO build-up near Belarus and said there are NATO tanks and aircraft 15 minutes from the country’s border.
NATO dismissed Lukashenko’s comments about a military build-up near the Belarus border. “There is no Nato build-up in the region,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “NATO’s multinational presence in the eastern part of the Alliance is not a threat to any country. It is strictly defensive, proportionate, and designed to prevent conflict and preserve peace.”
Belarus borders three NATO countries to its west; Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. On Saturday, Poland signed a defense treaty with Washington, increasing the number of US troops in the country to at least 5,500. Since the August 9th election, the US has thrown its support behind Belarusian protesters who are calling for Lukashenko to step down.