Rand considers Belarus the most effective way of putting pressure on Russia
Emmanuel Macron’s words about NATO’s “brain death” and his doubts about the alliance’s collective defence obligations exposed the systemic problems of this organisation, which has crossed the 70-year retirement threshold. How to live on if the promised barbarians did not come?
The same is being discussed in Germany. The German press argues that “the danger is not from the outside, but from the inside – NATO threatens itself”. There is no longer a consensus that the freedom and well-being of Western society must be protected from external dangers over and over again. According to polls, most people in the West do not feel threatened by Russia, and especially China, and do not want to increase defence spending against the background of budgetary difficulties and a fight over the distribution of resources.
At the NATO anniversary summit on December 3rd-4th, this existential problem was solved in a simply way, as they have done more than once, since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact Organisation: they announced that the main and deadly enemy is “Russia’s aggressive actions”.
That only the planned increase in annual NATO military spending of $130 billion is at least double Russia’s similar figures, and the alliance ‘s total budget is almost 25 times Russia’s defense budget (!), is not mentioned. The quantities are too disproportionate. The money that is taken from the citizens of NATO member states in the form of taxes allegedly to eliminate the threat goes into the pocket of the MPC and not to the extent of the disintegrated general.
Another traditional way to confirm NATO’s right to exist is to expand the organisation. Say, if there are those who want to join the alliance, then it’s necessary. NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg confirmed his intention to include Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, although he avoided determining when that might happen.
At the same time, NATO circles are working to engage in cooperation with the Belarusian bloc while significantly reducing its military cooperation with Russia, including within the framework of the CSTO. Belarus is seen in the West as a strategic “key” to Eastern Europe, which Moscow must be deprived of. NATO is preparing a renewed expanded program of individual partnership and cooperation with Belarus, as well as a treaty on information exchange.
A large group of Belarusian military personnel have been in Brussels since the beginning of December to participate in the development of these documents. J. Stoltenberg, noting the recent successful visit to Minsk of his Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges A. Missiroli (his highest level in 27 years), stressed: “We do not see any threat to NATO allied countries coming from Belarus”.
And whenever there is a conversation about a new expansion of the alliance, the idea of inviting Russia to join the alliance is necessarily thrown in. The meaning of this propaganda stunt is simple. If Moscow is also called in the hope that there will be “useful idiots” in it who will support such an idea, then what reason does Moscow have to object to joining the bloc of others? However, Russia will never be in NATO – otherwise this organisation will completely lose its raison d’être! We are not going to fight anyone, but cooperation with someone who declares you an enemy is excluded. This position of Moscow should be completely unambiguous.
If Western politicians are working to undermine Russian-Belarusian relations, especially in the run-up to the possible deepening of the integration of Belarus and Russian Federation, the NATO military has started a parallel game. It involves many Belarusian experts and high-ranking representatives of the Belarusian authorities.
The newly created Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) issued a report “Belarus between NATO and CSTO. Law and Geopolitics”. The report claims that Belarus takes a cautious approach to military cooperation with Russia, although it legislates this cooperation as a priority. The government in Minsk does not perceive NATO as a direct threat. The US and NATO countries are interested in “soft” cooperation with Belarus in order to “not provoke aggression from Russia”. The main way to maintain security is to strengthen the independence and sovereignty of Belarus, including increasing the defensive capacity of the armed forces. In view of the significant changes in the situation in the region, it is worth reviewing the role of Belarus in the context of the geopolitical confrontation between the United States and Russia. CSTO membership automatically blocks NATO membership and prevents Belarus from cooperating with NATO to the extent that it could pose a threat to Russia. The main conclusion of the report: “unobtrusive” cooperation with NATO and “cautious” military cooperation with Russia without excessive reliance on CSTO will allow Belarus to remain a neutral state and serve as a buffer between the West and Russia.
Similar ideas were expressed in early 2019 by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko, speaking at the US Atlantic Council at the conference “Belarusian Dilemma: for Minsk and for the West”. Kravchenko stressed that the increase in NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe is not a “direct threat to the security of the Republic of Belarus”, and the deployment of both NATO and Russian armed forces near the Belarusian border “increases risks and calls into question security in the region.”
Experts from “Minsk Dialogue” argue that contrary to the popular theory that the Russian-Belarusian manoeuvres of recent years are anti-Western and threaten the security of Europe, the reality is far from this. If in the first joint exercises “Union Shield – 2006” out of 8,800 participants the Belarusian military accounted for 7,000 of them, then at the last “Union Shield – 2019”, from the 12,000 participants only 4,000 were Belarusian troops. Fawning over Brussels, the authors of the report argue that Russia wants to give these exercises unwarranted weight, but Minsk constantly reduces its participation in joint military activities with Moscow.
Lukashenko, apparently, is not going to make sharp deviations in either direction in the hope that he will be able to successfully manoeuvre further. However, his Western “partners” play hardball. Whatever curtseys they make to the Belarusian leader, their general line remains unchanged.
This line is designated in the report of Rand Corporation, prepared in the middle of 2019 at the request of the headquarters of the army (DCS G-8) of the Department of the Army, entitled “Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground”. In the report Belarus (pages 109‑114) is called the most effective way of putting pressure on Russia.
The Rand Corporation report recognises that state power in Belarus is held firmly and the population is relatively satisfied with allied relations with Russia. Therefore, the main victory for the United States would be to deny Russia as Belarus’s only, true ally. Accordingly, spreading the image of Belarus as a “buffer” would contribute to the destruction of its allied relations with Russia. Note that the propaganda work inside and outside Belarus is carried out along this line.
The main way of influencing Minsk’s policy remains “regime change” in Belarus. The authors of the report note that “the end of Europe’s last dictatorship” is a long-established goal of US foreign policy. Now this goal, in their opinion, is particularly relevant: later Belarus can be used as a stick in the wheel of the development of the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as for the protection of the Baltic States and the isolation of Kaliningrad (page 112).
The cynical attitude of the authors of the Rand report towards those forces in Belarus that are campaigning for rapprochement with the West is striking. It is said, for example, that if even pushing the local opposition to protest against the regime does not yield a result, there will still be a benefit: “Russian leaders, concerned about the West’s role in colour revolutions, will increase their political-military pressure on Belarus”, and this is good – Russia will be forced to spend more resources and rely on corrupt authorities, which will again increase public protest (page 112).
Conclusion: an attempt is being made to make Belarus the hostage of someone else’s war, this time – a hybrid one. To hope that the republic can resist this in isolation from Russia is an inexcusable illusion.
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