Speaking to the Sky News Arabia television station on July 19, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned that the escalating campaign against his nation by the European Union (and its military enforcement arm, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) portends a worsening crisis not only in the region, not only on the continent, but in the world as a whole.
Since last year’s presidential election in Belarus, the head of state and other officials have warned of the threat of an invasion of the country by NATO acting through, in particular, Lithuania and Poland. Except for its border with Russia, Belarus is surrounded by NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner Ukraine. Those four countries have a combined population of 88 million; Belarus of 9.5 million.
NATO has Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; the Pentagon has troops and armored vehicles assigned to Operation Atlantic Resolve in the three countries as well. NATO conducts around-the-clock air patrols with advanced-generation combat aircraft from bases in Lithuania and Poland as well as nearby Estonia.
Currently the U.S. is leading the Three Swords war games with the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade in Ukraine against the backdrop of the host country’s president and other officials claiming for months that Belarus is somehow a threat to it, particularly when the joint Belarusian-Russian Zapad 21 exercises get underway in September.
Britain alone has trained over 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers to NATO standards. Turkey has provided the nation’s air force and navy with Bayraktar TB2 combat drones and is commissioned to provide Kiev with several corvettes to be used against Russia in the Black Sea. Ukraine is a military threat to Belarus and not the reverse.
The Belarusian president’s comments included: “By creating here, in the center of Europe, a hotbed of monstrous tension, by launching a hybrid war against us and against Russia and China, the Europeans are creating not just a hotbed of tension in the very center of Europe. They are all taking us closer to World War III.”
Lukashenko would have a stronger moral case if, as a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, his nation had supported fellow members Russia in 2008 when it intervened to protect South Ossetia after Georgia invaded it, Armenia during last year’s Azerbaijani-Turkish invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, and Armenia again when over 1,000 Azerbaijani troops invaded the nation in May. Instead Lukashenko in all three cases was among the first to embrace the aggressor: Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008 and Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev last year and this. When Armenia brought the case of Azerbaijani troops violating its territorial integrity and refusing to leave its land before the Collective Security Treaty Organization, its secretary general, Stanislav Zas – a Belarusian – dismissed the armed incursion and occupation as a “border incident.”
Nevertheless, when Lukashenko’s own fat is in the fire he doesn’t hesitate to speak candidly, as these excerpts from the television interview demonstrate:
“This is politicians’ madness. And I understand why this is happening. Because the European Union, Western Europe, first of all, are colonial states. The relationship of the United States of America with European countries is that of a metropole with subordinate colonies….
“Many events in the countries of the European Union, even in the most powerful of them, are orchestrated by the United States of America. The events run by the Americans in Europe are generally beyond the control of even the leaders of these countries.”
Belarus, through some combination of preference and necessity, has strengthened state-to-state, economic and military ties with Russia and China among other non-Western nations lately. Much as with Syria, over which Russia and China cast 16 vetoes in the United Nations Security Council, and in the process halted plans by the U.S. and its NATO allies to replicate their Yugoslavia and Libya war models there, Moscow and Beijing may be compelled to intervene on behalf of Belarus. And perhaps more than diplomatically. In that instance Lukashenko’s admonitions may not be far-fetched.