Commentary: Growing fears Russia could drag Belarus into Ukraine war
The resulting leverage that the Kremlin has may simply leave the Belarusian president with very few options if Putin decides that the only pathway to success for him in his war in Ukraine is through Belarus.
This need not imply a full-scale invasion by the Belarusian army into Ukraine. But it could involve a gradual escalation: More military exercises at the border, false-flag operations, incursions by special forces and missile attacks from Belarusian territory on the Ukrainian capital and major population centres.
Belarus could also threaten Western supply lines, especially along the Ukrainian-Polish border. At a minimum, this would cause further destruction in Ukraine and possibly tie up Ukrainian forces, meaning that they are drawn away from what is currently the main theatre of operations in Donbas.
While not constituting the worst-case scenario of Belarus actually joining in active combat operations, even such a gradual escalation would be bad news. It would complicate the military situation for Ukraine.
Belarus, too, would likely be dragged deeper and deeper into the war, which has become a more realistic possibility with Russia threatening retaliation over Lithuania’s decision to block sanctioned goods from entering Kaliningrad via rail from Belarus.
Ultimately, Belarus may not be on the brink of being plunged into war quite yet, but its options to avoid such a disaster are narrowing.
Stefan Wolff is a Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham and Anastasiya Bayok is a Researcher in International Politics at the University of Hamburg. This commentary first appeared in The Conversation.