July 1 – July 7, 2024
Security issues

Minsk and Moscow Attempt to Drag China into Conflict with Ukraine and NATO

The situation has not changed
Minsk and Moscow Attempt to Drag China into Conflict with Ukraine and NATO

Following Belarus’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Lukashenka regime is attempting to present traditional joint exercises with the Chinese army as security guarantees from Beijing. The tense atmosphere of these drills suggests Minsk and Moscow’s desire to draw Beijing into a confrontation with Ukraine and the West.

On July 6, military personnel from the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) arrived in Belarus to participate in a joint anti-terrorism exercise. The drills are scheduled to take place from July 8 to 19. The military department states that the joint training will allow for an exchange of experience, coordination of units, and the creation of a foundation for the development of Belarusian-Chinese relations in troop preparation.

Notably, the announcement of the exercises came a few days after Belarus became a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). During the summit in Astana, Lukashenka declared that in the 21st century, the initiative to build genuine and indivisible global security should be taken up by countries of the global majority, “since the self-centered, egotistical West is incapable of this.” He stated that Belarus is also interested in cooperating with the growing family of SCO countries in the field of security, combating organized crime, drug trafficking, and human trafficking.

To an outside observer, the timing of the SCO summit and the joint anti-terrorism exercise might seem coincidental and suggest that China immediately began fulfilling its security guarantees towards Belarus. However, the planning of these drills was known as early as mid-August 2023, following Lukashenka’s negotiations with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu. At that time, the Belarusian politician declared that bilateral military cooperation would in no way be directed against third countries.

This is not the first such exercise. Since 2011, the Special Operations Forces of the Belarusian Armed Forces and the PLA have regularly conducted anti-terrorist drills. Notable past exercises include “Rapid Eagle” in Belarus in 2011, 2015, and in China in 2012, and “Attacking Falcon” in China in 2018.

In 2017, Belarus hosted the first joint anti-terrorism exercise “United Shield,” involving special units of the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Internal Troops and the Chinese People’s Armed Police.

Ahead of the current training, Vladimir Kupriyanyuk, head of the Main (Intelligence) Directorate of the General Staff of the Belarusian Armed Forces, held a briefing. During the briefing, he stated:

– The situation around Belarus continues to develop under the influence of negative factors due to the West’s aggressive foreign policy towards the Union State of Belarus and Russia.

– The Ukrainian armed forces, with NATO support, are preparing to possibly send diversionary groups into Belarusian territory.

– Given the buildup of special forces units, mercenaries, and other formations in border areas, there is a high likelihood of armed provocations on our territory.

The head of Belarusian military intelligence warned adversaries that Minsk, along with its allies, would respond to any provocation attempts.

These statements and assessments set the stage for the joint Belarusian-Chinese training. It is possible that during these exercises, Minsk might escalate the situation on the border with Ukraine and Poland further, preemptively accusing the leadership of these countries of aggressive actions. This could provide Belarus with an “argument” to justify itself to Beijing regarding Poland’s intention to block rail transit through Belarus from China to Europe—”due to Belarus’s aggressive hybrid actions.” And if a staged provocation occurs during the exercises, it is clear that Minsk and Moscow will not only blame Ukraine and the West but also use it to shift the position of Chinese leadership towards greater confrontation involvement.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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