Against the backdrop of broad and, unfortunately, unfounded hints of Ukrainian officials about the fast liberation of Donbass, experts are increasingly concerned about the threat of Russian aggression from another direction – from the north.
The fact is that "West-2017" Russian-Belarusian military exercises are going to be held in Belarus in September. They are held every five years as part of the Union State of Belarus and Russia. According to the Belarusian press, 13 thousand servicemen will take part in the exercises this year. 3 thousand of them are Russians. In addition to manpower, Moscow will transfer to Belarus about 280 units of military equipment, including aviation.
Here it should be recalled what, in fact, the Common State of Belarus and Russia is.
The fact is that back in 1999, Lukashenko and Yeltsin had signed an agreement on the creation of a single confederal state. The powers of the Union State include: foreign policy, defense and security, budgetary, monetary and taxation systems, customs issues, energy, transport and communications systems. At the same time, nominally, each state retains its independence and territorial integrity. But what kind of independence are we talking about, if foreign policy and even monetary and taxation systems - are common.
Until recently, Lukashenko who, incidentally, heads the Supreme State Council of the Union State since 2010 frankly did not hurry with full integration, knowing fully well that being integrated with Russia means being eaten by Russia.
But now the economic situation in Belarus has deteriorated so much that he cannot seriously resist Putin. That is, the process of confederation, and in fact the absorption of Belarus by Russia, can enter its last phase. And it is most convenient for Moscow to do this during the "West 2017" exercises, when Moscow will introduce three thousand of its military to Belarus.
Moreover, legally, this will not be an occupation. They, as Lukashenko himself recently stated, will guard the "borders of their Union State". But in fact, the Kremlin can take Belarus, as it is now fashionable to say, "under effective control". Just as it "effectively controls" Donbass...
It must be said, Kyiv understands this danger and treats it seriously enough. In the middle of June, MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc Ivan Vinnik on the air of 5 Channel said: "Another important point, especially in the context of the joint Russian-Belarusian training "West-2017". There is a big risk, according to some experts and the Main Intelligence Directorate, that Russia will try to occupy Belarus, at least, to control it through the presence of its armed formations there, including the possibility of opening a new North-Western Front in Ukraine".
The seriousness of the threat is also confirmed by the fact that the Belarusian army, according to the authoritative expert Vasyl Laptiychuk, is similar to the Crimean segment of the Ukrainian army of the 2014 model.
"The Belarusian army is somewhat similar to the "Crimean" segment of the Ukrainian army in the spring of 2014, because it will readily switch to Russian wages and higher career opportunities, as the Russian military's career prospects are much higher than that of Belarus", - he said on air of 112 Channel.
But Ukraine can expect attack this autumn not only from the side of Belarus. At the end of August, Moscow plans another event, which will significantly affect the national security of Ukraine. This is the end of the construction of the railway line "Zhuravka-Millerovo".
The thing is that now the Moscow-Adler railway passes through the territory of Ukraine, more precisely, through the part of the Luhansk oblast controlled by Kyiv. This is about 30 kilometers, which makes it transparent for Ukraine, and, accordingly, transportation of military equipment to the conflict zone is impossible. After the commissioning of the railway bypassing Ukraine, the delivery of military equipment to a possible attack bridgehead will be problem-free for the Kremlin...
Serhiy Harmash, Centre for Research of Donbass Social Perspectives