As military tensions mount in Eastern Europe, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko warned that Belarus will go to war if its Russian ally is attacked.
"So will there be a war or not? Yes, there will be, but only in two cases: if Belarus suffers a direct aggression, if a hot war is unleashed against our Belarus. We will stand united as one—even those who don’t want to—to defend our land and our homeland," Lukashenko said during a state address late last week. “And the second possibility, when a war may happen and Belarus will take part in it: if our ally Russia suffers a direct attack, if such aggression is committed against the Russian Federation. The grounds for that are our allied agreements,” Lukashenko added.
Lukashenko added that “hundreds of thousands” of Russian troops will be mobilized to defend Belarus from any attack. "I would like to answer the collective West, this question is very important for them: will there be troops on the Belarusian territory. In case of aggression against our country, there will be hundreds of thousands of Russian troops, who, together with hundreds of thousands of Belarusians, will protect this sacred land,” he said.
The Belarusian leader’s statements come ahead of the Union Resolve 2022 joint drills between Belarus and Russia in February. According to Russian state media, the upcoming drills will reportedly focus “on repelling external aggression, countering terrorism and protecting the interests of the Union State.” The “Union State” is a reference to a 1999 national integration framework signed by Russia and Belarus. The drills will be held across at least five training grounds in Belarus. The number of participating Russian and Belarusian personnel remains unclear, as does the makeup and quantity of the military equipment to be deployed over the course of the drills.
Lukashenko said earlier in January that the Union Resolve 2022 drills are partly a response to what he described as the continued buildup of Ukrainian and NATO forces in Eastern Europe. "NATO forces converge near the border of the Union State. U.S. strategic bombers’ sorties were intensified—over 30 sorties every day," the Belarusian leader said. "The neighboring states are talking about deployment of nuclear weapons. Our Western neighbors—Poland, Lithuania—actively follow Washington’s policy course.”
Alexander Volfovich, the Secretary of the Belarusian State Security Council, added on Friday that nuclear-capable U.S. bombers have intensified the pace of their training sorties near Russia and Belarus. Volfovich called the alleged buildup of NATO and Ukrainian forces in the region “a breach of international norms and elementary rules of good neighborly relations.”
NATO has announced plans to step up its presence in the region amid the ongoing military standoff between Russia and Ukraine, a measure that western leaders say is intended to reassure wary allies on the organization’s eastern flank.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.