Tuesday, May 17

Russian military exercise in Ukraine’s northern neighbor worries

The United States fears that Russia will use Belarus as a stepping stone before a possible attack on Ukraine from the north.

A Russian tank photographed during an exercise at the Kadamovsky base in the Rostov region of southern Russia.

Over the weekend, Russian forces began arriving in Belarus to take part in a major exercise. Fighter jets and air defense units will also participate in the exercise, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Fomin said on Tuesday. The soldiers are being picked up from bases in eastern Russia, and together with Belarusian forces, they will practice responding to “external threats”. The exercise must take place from 10. – 20. February.

It is not known how many Russian soldiers have been sent to the country.

Fomin says there is a need to gather the country’s military capacity in the west.

“A situation may arise which means that the regional forces are not sufficient to ensure security for Russia, and we must be prepared to strengthen it,” says Fomin, according to the news agency AP.

“We have reached an agreement with Belarus that it is necessary to involve the entire military potential for joint defense,” he continued.

The exercise will be held in the west of the country, close to the border with Ukraine and NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

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Can open to nuclear weapons?

The fact that amendments to the constitution in Belarus have been proposed at the same time, which can be understood as allowing for the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on their territory, does not make the Americans calmer.

“Such a change would mean a challenge to European security, which may require an answer,” said a senior US official, who on Tuesday briefed journalists on condition of anonymity.

However, the official could not establish that there were any plans or intentions to move Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has put himself in a vulnerable position and become dependent on Russian support. It is taking advantage of Russia, according to an analysis by a top US official who briefed journalists on Tuesday. Russia and Belarus will hold a joint military exercise north of the border with Ukraine in February.

Weakened leader

Belarus has previously been neutral in the dispute over Ukraine, but in November the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko issued statements acknowledging Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. US diplomats point out that Lukashenko is weakened and believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of this.

“Lukashenko has become more and more dependent on various types of aid from Russia, and we know that Putin is not giving anything away for free,” said a US official who briefed journalists on the situation on Tuesday, provided he remained anonymous.

The joint military exercise became known before Christmas, but the Americans believe this is not a normal exercise. They claim that it has not been notified as normal and has not facilitated international observers, as required by international rules.

US diplomats do not believe that most Belarusians or the country’s elite support the country’s contribution to an attack on Ukraine.

“We have raised our concerns with them,” said the anonymous official.

Lukashenko has explained the need for a joint exercise with Russia with NATO’s presence in Poland and Lithuania.

Developments may force Ukraine to disperse its military units to strengthen its presence in the north and reduce it in the southeast. The capital Kiev is only 90 km from the border with Belarus and may be exposed to Russian long-range missiles.

Russia could also deploy electronic equipment that could prevent the use of radars, satellites and other communications from the capital, in the event of an invasion, points out military analyst Rob Lee at the US Foreign Policy Research Institute, according to the news agency Reuters.

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The White House: Russia could attack Ukraine at any time

– Anytime

The Russian escalation in Belarus is taking place at the same time as Russia has deployed an estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers to areas east of the Ukrainian border.

– We are now there that Russia can attack Ukraine at any time, President Joe Biden’s spokesman Jen Psaki warned on Tuesday.

Russia denies that the country threatens Ukraine, but believes they themselves are exposed to threats and demand security guarantees from NATO. Several meetings between Russia, the United States and NATO have not led to a solution.

Foreign ministers and other envoys are now traveling in shuttle services between European capitals and Moscow in hopes of calming the situation. On Friday, the table is set for a foreign ministers ‘meeting between the United States’ Antony Blinken and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

US officials say they will test the possibility of a diplomatic solution. But the United States is preparing for an offensive, according to a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States has previously warned Russia that an attack on Ukraine would have “massive consequences”.


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