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Putin Is Eyeing One Specific Country to Help Him Invade Ukraine

Coalition forces fire an M3 multi-role anti-armor anti-tank weapon system on a range during training in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 23, 2013. Coalition forces reviewed their weapons handling and firing techniques to increase safety, accuracy and familiarity with the weapon system. (DoD photo by Sgt. Benjamin Tuck, U.S. Army/Released)

Is Ukraine Facing Problems from Belarus? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to the U.S. and back in less the 24 hours. During his stay, he met with President Joe Biden and national security officials and also spoke to a joint session of Congress.

A few days before Zelensky’s trip to the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Belarus, in yet another attempt to bring his proxy into the war. 

The Belarus Factor 

On December 19, right before Zelensky’s visit to the U.S., Putin and several of his most senior defense and foreign policy advisors, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, traveled to Belarus to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his advisors. 

The discussion between the two leaders included talk of a “single defense space,” which gives fuel to the assessment that Moscow might try to “soft” annex Minsk. 

The Ukrainian Military Intelligence has indicated that the Russian military is getting ready for another large-scale offensive operation in the coming weeks. Kyiv is singled out as one of the most likely targets of this offensive. And Belarus would provide the ideal staging ground for such an attack, as it did almost one year ago. 

Belarus is a Russian proxy. There is little doubt about that. The Russian military used Belarus as a staging ground to launch its attack from the north toward Kyiv. For weeks into the war, Belarus facilitated the transport and support of the Russian forces trying to capture.

However, Minsk has managed to largely resist Putin’s “advances” and keep itself out of the direct war. There seems to be very little appetite within the Belarussian population about joining the war. Lukashenko seems to understand that and has been trying to prevent dragging his country into a war that is highly likely to be lost. 

Training the Russian Military 

In September, Putin declared a partial mobilization of the Russian reserves, calling up approximately 300,000 troops to arms. These forces have needed training to get up to speed. But most of the Russian military has been committed to the fighting in Ukraine. As a result, many reservist units have gone into action with minimal training. 

Now, it seems that the Russian leadership is trying to change that by using Belarusian troops to train its mobilized reservists. 

“The likely use of Belarusian instructors is an attempt to partially remediate the lack of Russian military trainers, many of whom are deployed in Ukraine or have become casualties. Although Russia and Belarus have an extensive background of military co-operation, the training of mobilised Russian personnel by Belarusians represents a role reversal,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

Putin seems to have gotten a concession from Lukashenko: If the Belarusian military doesn’t join the fight directly, it will at least train the Russian forces that will. 

“Belarusian forces have traditionally been considered by Russia as inferior to Russian forces and their employment as trainers is an indication of overstretch within the Russian military system,” the British Military Intelligence added.

Expert Biography and Expertise: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.