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December 26 – January 1, 2022
Security issues

2022: The collapse of the regional security system

The situation got worse
2022: The collapse of the regional security system
Расійскія танкі ўваходзяць ва Украіну з тэрыторыі Беларусі. Пагранічны пункт пропуску Сенькаўка, 24-га лютага 2022 г. Скрыншот відэа CNN з YouTube

The West considers Minsk to be an integral part of the Russian military machine. The Belarusian regime bet heavily on a Russian military victory in Ukraine but did not intend to participate directly in the war.

The most significant event in 2022 was the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which became the largest interstate military clash in Europe since 1945.

Contrary to popular claims, there was no objective evidence in 2022 that the Kremlin pressured Minsk to become directly involved in the aggression against Ukraine, nor was there any detectable preparation of the Belarusian army to enter the war. The practical actions and public statements of the Lukashenka regime were unequivocally supportive of Russia, but the lack of involvement of the Belarusian army currently satisfies (relatively) both the West and Kyiv.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian regime has attempted to duplicate its 2014 foreign policy success by offering to act as an intermediary for negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow to end the war. Alternatively, Minsk aims to be recognised as an independent party in peace negotiations (without being a party to the hostilities). Such efforts are coordinated with the Kremlin.

Belarus abandoned its official nuclear-free status.

Hopes were voiced for the involvement of extra-regional players (India and China) in Eastern European security matters.

At the end of 2022, Minsk announced its intention to increase the military budget by more than one and a half times.

Although the financial performance of the Belarusian military-industrial complex in 2022 is unknown, it can be assumed that Russia has become its main customer. This reversed the trend of recent years when Belarusian military products fell under Russian import substitution. The growth of Russian consumption has probably compensated for reduced demand in other markets.

Forecasts for 2023

  • Minsk will position itself as an independent actor, ready to help prevent a direct clash between Russia and NATO, and continue attempts to act as a joint organiser of Russian-Ukrainian peace talks.
  • The Belarusian regime will actively promote the message that considering the interests of Russia, failure to commence peace negotiations soon may lead to another round of escalation in terms of geography and participants engaged and the destructiveness of the weapons employed.
  • The possible deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus will continue to be used for propaganda purposes. We can expect actions indicating such deployment to Belarusian territory, but it is not automatic that such a transfer will take place in reality.
  • Minsk’s attempts to involve the largest Asian states in regional affairs will be fruitless, but the regime will use them as a pretext to intensify and expand bilateral cooperation.
  • The Third Southern Command of Belarusian Ground Forces is likely to increase in strength by 10-12% and receive new and upgraded weapons.
  • Exports of Belarusian defence products and services to Russia will increase significantly. This will mitigate the effect of Western sanctions on the Belarusian military-industrial complex.
  • The public anti-Western and anti-NATO rhetoric of the Lukashenka regime will continue. In parallel, attempts will be made to engage in bilateral dialogue with individual Western countries under the pretext of the need to prevent military escalation in Europe as a whole. These efforts will not yield tangible results.
  • The likelihood of Belarus’s direct involvement in the Russian military campaign cannot be accurately assessed. Minsk seeks to avoid such an eventuality, but the determining factors remain largely unknown and will be beyond the control of the Belarusian regime.
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Once a week, in coordination with a group of leading Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries to the most topical and relevant issues, including on behind the scenes processes ongoing in Belarus, in Russian and English.
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