At a ceremony honoring graduates of his nation’s higher military schools, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko lauded the role of officers in the armed forces as being “highly qualified specialists, commanders and chiefs capable of resisting any aggressive actions against Belarus.”
He was not speaking in the abstract. Not many heads of state would have to use words like those to a graduating class of a military academy.
Commencing with a broad overview of the state of international affairs, he lamented an incremental and unrelenting collapse of international security arrangements. He stated candidly that to all intents and purposes they no longer exist: “Multilateral global platforms designed to maintain peace and security on the planet have been degraded and demonstrate an inability to effectively perform their functions.”
The most alarming and most pertinent part of his address was this: “The strategic rivalry of the world’s powers threatens to spiral into a different, more dangerous phase. At the same time, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is increasingly building up its offensive potential. NATO drills are constantly held in the immediate vicinity of our borders. Rapid deployment forces are being beefed up and intelligence activities have increased. A terrorist attack on Belarus has begun.”
Since the first round of post-Cold War NATO expansion in 1999 the U.S.-dominated military bloc has accelerated the movement of military personnel and infrastructure to nations bordering Belarus. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (as well as Estonia) have multinational NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups and American troops and armored vehicles assigned to the Pentagon’s Operation Atlantic Resolve stationed on their territory. By the estimate of the chief of the Russian general staff General Valery Gerasimov, there are 10,000 such troops near the borders of Belarus and Russia.
NATO conducts continuous patrols by advanced combat aircraft from bases in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, nations bordering Belarus.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has recently announced that the U.S. will lead a military exercise with troops from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, with the 4,500-troop Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade, for the first time on Ukrainian territory. Belarus has recently closed its border with Ukraine whose political leadership has attempted to portray tiny Belarus as planning to attack it – with five times the population and a NATO-trained army.