“The spirit of our endeavour is, To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”

Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President

Belarus role in NATO’s Eastern Region

Immediately after the outbreak of the 2014 Russian–Ukrainian conflict, Minsk presented itself mainly as a neutral party willing to substantially further peace negotiations over the war’s resolution, thus playing the role of an indispensable regional peace broker.
But just as importantly, Belarus also warranted so-called security guaranties toward all states in its neighbourhood. Accordingly, the Belarusian government took upon itself the commitment that it would not allow third countries (including Russia) to use Belarusian territory as a springboard to carry out military aggression against any of its neighbours.
Lukashenka’s resolve aimed at preserving this de facto neutrality and therefore at avoiding a Russian military encroachment, has morphed into Belarus’s considerable level of strategic autonomy within its complex political and military alliance with Russia that can be assessed as a trade-off between economic help against geopolitical loyalty to Moscow.
In the Russia–Belarus Union State, for instance, Minsk and Moscow, from the purely legal point of view, despite a substantial power gap between the two entities, held formally equal weight, and decisions are, accordingly, taken on the basis of consensus. This helped Minsk in the past to exercise its veto power effectively and substantially to block any unilateral Russian decisions that may have been inconsistent with core Belarusian national interests, as, for instance, substantial, but non formal, military neutrality, or, better said, the difficulty or impossibility of Russian forces of carrying out military operations from Belarusian territory.
What is changing? Belarus is being courted by neighbouring states like Lithuania, Poland and Latvia with the offer of grants, financial help to the burgeoning civil society to further the development of democracy in an atomized society that has been used to authoritarian rule for so many years.
Presently we are witnessing “democracy promotion” by Western European states or the EU, that condemn Lukashenka’s use of violence (“deeply concerned”) against protesters in the streets. This automatically entails the threat or the implementation of sanctions against Lukashenka and his immediate entourage who are not affected by them. It is clear that these sanctions have a very limited effectiveness.


If Russia and Belarus were united as a single entity in the near future, the strategic implications for NATO would be very serious, because the Baltics would be almost surrounded by Russian forces with, presumably, the provision of logistic support by the armed forces of Belarus.
This would weaken the strategic and political posture of the Baltics and of Poland by highlighting further the importance of the indefensible Suwalki corridor, as the only land connection open between the Baltics and other NATO allies, while luckily sea access is more diversified although contested in a conflict scenario. Therefore, more forces would be deployed in the area by NATO
The scenario of a Russian military intervention or even a “creeping annexation” can be deemed as relatively unattractive for Moscow due to the heavy political resistance from Belarus’ citizens for whom unification with Russia is not popular and rather divisive, as it was in other Russian speaking countries. Concrete international opposition would be strengthened by internal resistance.
Instead, long as Russia continues to remain steadily and actively involved or embedded in the steering of the political process towards the gradual democratization of the Belarusian society, while safeguarding a neutral or “balanced” political and military status, one can reasonably expect that a Ukrainian-type escalation may be prevented.

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