War with Russia in Europe – Is Putin’s Real Target Belarus, Not Ukraine?

kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons

Ukrainian leaders have been warning NATO of a possible Russian strike against them, as early as this coming January. U.S. and NATO intelligence appears to corroborate the Russian military buildup in the region and have also warned of a possible Russian invasion.

While the risk of war appears real, one of Vladimir Putin’s security advisers says Russia sees a decided risk of “possible armed conflicts” with NATO member states in Europe, the Russian target may not be Ukraine, but Belarus.

The ongoing refugee crisis between Belarus, Poland, and the rest of the European Union (EU), are a key component in this mix.

“There are risks that members of international terrorist and extremist organizations, as well as subversive activities and terror attacks tools, may infiltrate into Russia,” said Grebenkin, the Russian foreign policy adviser, according to the Examiner.

“It stems from the fact that the number of hotbeds of military-political instability near our border is increasing,” he added.

Fully absorbing Belarus militarily into the Russian sphere is a key strategic goal for Putin, placing Russian troops directly on NATO borders.

The Washington Examiner reports:

Russian military activity around the borders of multiple NATO countries has increased in recent weeks, as Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko has invoked the protection of the Kremlin as Belarusian security services shuttle migrants from the Middle East to the borders of their democratic neighbors. Those Russian military operations have alarmed Ukrainian officials, who fear another assault by Russian forces. Still, U.S. and European officials suspect Lukashenko also has cause to fear the Kremlin’s intentions.

According to one EU official, Putin could be using the current border buildups and crises as an excuse to expand Russia’s military presence in Belarus, which has resisted the Kremlin’s efforts to implement a decades-old ‘union state’ agreement between Minsk and Moscow.

While kowtowing to the Kremlin, Lukashenko tried to keep Putin at arm’s length in 2019 when Putin tried to pressure the former Soviet satellite state into a closer political union with Moscow.

The Examiner added:

“I personally think that one should not only look on the Ukraine angle on this,” said Ambassador Dirk Schuebel, who leads the European Union’s delegation to Belarus, during the Wilson Center event. “It is, in general terms, in Russian interest to be militarily present in Belarus, and I would see it in that context in the first place.”

NATO and the EU would be well served to review their options in case of a Russian incursion into Belarus rather than Ukraine. This could be Putin’s real targetADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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