Russia may use Belarus as springboard to invade Ukraine, warns Washington
The United States suspects that Russian troops currently being deployed to Belarus could indicate further preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, a senior U.S. State Department official said in a briefing on Jan. 18.
In recent days, multiple Russian battalions have been spotted in Belarusian territory, including tank, motorized, and NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) detection units. Open source intelligence analysts from the Conflict Investigation Team estimate that there are currently about 10,000 Russian troops deployed to Belarus.
“The reports of Russian troop movements towards Belarus, (even though) these movements are supposedly under the auspices of regularly scheduled joint military exercises, are concerning,” the official said.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko announced the previously unscheduled exercises on Jan. 17, noting that they would be joint operations of the Union State, comprised of Russia and Belarus, and that they would be focused on countering threats from the West and South. This corresponds to Poland and the Baltic states for Belarus’ western border, and Ukraine for its southern border.
“The timing is notable, and of course raises concerns that Russia could intend to station troops in Belarus under the guise of joint military exercises in order, potentially, to attack Ukraine from the north,” the State Department official said.
The United States has made its concerns “known to the Belarusian authorities privately,” according to the State Department.
Russia has currently deployed over 100,000 troops along its side of the Russian-Ukrainian border and on Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory, sparking fears of a further invasion of the country.
A series of negotiations between Russia and the United States and NATO were held last week to defuse the tensions caused by the Kremlin military buildup, but Russian demands to restrict NATO enlargement, roll back post-1997 NATO infrastructure, and for written guarantees of NATO non-expansion into Ukraine and Georgia were rebuffed.
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