Moscow preparing to destabilize Belarus if Lukashenka refuses to allow a Russian base, Mensk experts say

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has so far refused Moscow’s demand for the establishment of a Russian military base in Belarus, two senior Belarusian analysts say, noting that in addition to promises of aid, Moscow is currently preparing to destabilize its Western neighbor and even create the conditions for a Russian military intervention.

Arseniy Sivitsky, the director of the Belarusian Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research, and his colleague Yury Tsarik shared their concerns about the situation with Kseniya Kirillova of Novy Region-2.

Sivitsky says that Moscow has been talking about having a base in Belarus since the end of 2013 as a response to the Ukrainian crisis with the view to using it to pressure Kyiv, on the one hand, and put NATO in a difficult position with regard to the defense of the Baltic countries, on the other.

Tsarik notes that “the Russian leadership has more than once confirmed verbally that it doesn’t intend to fight with NATO,” and consequently, Russia has to take into consideration several “political” results of the opening of such a base there.

First of all, he says, a Russian base in Belarus would cost Mensk of its status as a neutral negotiating space as far as Ukraine is concerned. That might work against Russia’s interests.

But second, it would mean the loss by Kyiv of an important ally who guarantees the security of its northern border.

And third, even if it had not direct military consequences, Tsarik says, a Russian military base in Belarus would exacerbate tensions in Poland and the Baltic countries and could lead them to take additional steps and perhaps gain additional support from the West to defend against what they would certainly view as a new Russian threat.

But however that may be, Sivitsky says, Moscow is “exerting colossal pressure on the Belarusian leadership to secure Mensk’s agreement.” Some of this consists of carrots like the promise of additional financial aid if Belarus agrees. But there are also sticks, including likely moves by Russia to destabilize Belarus if Mensk refuses.

Full article: Moscow preparing to destabilize Belarus if Lukashenka refuses to allow a Russian base, Mensk experts say (Euromaidan Press)

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