At a ceremony honoring graduates of his nation’s higher military schools, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko lauded the role of officers in the armed forces as being “highly qualified specialists, commanders and chiefs capable of resisting any aggressive actions against Belarus.”
He was not speaking in the abstract. Not many heads of state would have to use words like those to a graduating class of a military academy.
Commencing with a broad overview of the state of international affairs, he lamented an incremental and unrelenting collapse of international security arrangements. He stated candidly that to all intents and purposes they no longer exist: “Multilateral global platforms designed to maintain peace and security on the planet have been degraded and demonstrate an inability to effectively perform their functions.”
The most alarming and most pertinent part of his address was this: “The strategic rivalry of the world’s powers threatens to spiral into a different, more dangerous phase. At the same time, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is increasingly building up its offensive potential. NATO drills are constantly held in the immediate vicinity of our borders. Rapid deployment forces are being beefed up and intelligence activities have increased. A terrorist attack on Belarus has begun.”
Since the first round of post-Cold War NATO expansion in 1999 the U.S.-dominated military bloc has accelerated the movement of military personnel and infrastructure to nations bordering Belarus. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (as well as Estonia) have multinational NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups and American troops and armored vehicles assigned to the Pentagon’s Operation Atlantic Resolve stationed on their territory. By the estimate of the chief of the Russian general staff General Valery Gerasimov, there are 10,000 such troops near the borders of Belarus and Russia.
NATO conducts continuous patrols by advanced combat aircraft from bases in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, nations bordering Belarus.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has recently announced that the U.S. will lead a military exercise with troops from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, with the 4,500-troop Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade, for the first time on Ukrainian territory. Belarus has recently closed its border with Ukraine whose political leadership has attempted to portray tiny Belarus as planning to attack it – with five times the population and a NATO-trained army.
Only two and a half weeks ago Belarus commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Nazi German invasion of its land, one that ultimately led to the deaths of a third of its total population. An attack by multinational military forces from the West is not an unfamiliar concept to the nation. Lukashenko pointed that parallel out to his listeners.
Today’s TASS quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoing Lukashenko’s concerns about the NATO buildup on his nation’s western border as well, warning that the military bloc has “sent tens of thousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of offensive weapons to the line of contact with Russia from all over the world.”
From all over the world in fact. The ongoing U.S.- and Ukraine-led Sea Breeze war games in the Black Sea off Russia’s coast include military personnel and weapons from 32 nations on six continents, including countries as far away as Pakistan, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
The Belarusian president also included this impassioned commitment, one that any head of state dreads to have to articulate:
“We do not want to be at war with anybody. This is not our goal. We are military men and know the value of peace. But we are not getting down on our knees. We cannot do what they want. We protect ourselves, our families, our children, our land. We do not want anything else.”
And he attributed his nation’s current plight to what so many victims of military aggression throughout the ages have fallen prey to: fatal geopolitical location.
“The conclusion is absolutely obvious. The collective West continues to strive to establish its hegemony and is not abandoning attempts to deprive us of sovereignty and to impose external control. Why us? Because we have been always on their way. We just found ourselves at the wrong time and in the wrong place not where they wanted us to be.”
That is a lesson several nations – and what once were nations – have been sternly taught in the past twenty or more years: the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Macedonia, Afghanistan, South Ossetia, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh among others.
Lastly, Lukashenko spoke words that could be used as an epigraph in textbooks on history, sociology and military affairs:
“Wars are started from inside, with clouding the minds of our people. A war will start from creating chaos in our country, and only after that, if needed, they will send in foreign troops….”