Reported by SAMUEL MANGOLD-LENETT | February 28, 2022
Belarus is preparing to deploy troops into Ukraine in support of the country’s Russian allies. A Biden administration official said that Belarusian leadership could order the deployment of forces into Ukraine as early as Monday, the Washington Post reported. The official said, “It’s very clear Minsk is now an extension of the Kremlin.”
The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has allowed Russian troops to conduct military drills and store supplies within his country.
On Saturday, Ukrainian and Russian leadership agreed to hold peace talks along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. Lukashenko’s planned invasion of Ukraine will, naturally, complicate these planned talks.
The Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, recently called for sanctions against Lukashenko and the Belarusian regime. Newsweek reported that Tsikhanouskaya referred to them as “accomplices of Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine.” A Ukrainian government official told CNN that the Ukrainian government had intelligence indicating that Belarus is ready “to maybe participate directly” in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The official said that the Belarusian government is allowing Russia to use Belarus to enter Ukraine, “in addition to allowing Russians to use their territory as well as letting them cross the border.” However, as of now, according to a senior U.S. defense official, the American government has not seen Belarusian troops “being readied to move into Ukraine” or “that they are moving or are in Ukraine.”
Anticipating Belarus’ participation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration suspended all operations in the American embassy in Belarus. The State Department also encouraged non-emergency employees and family members of American diplomats to vacate the U.S. embassy in Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “The U.S. Department of State has suspended operations at our Embassy in Minsk, Belarus and authorized the voluntary departure (‘authorized departure’) of non-emergency employees and family members at our Embassy in Moscow, Russia. We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine.”
Over the weekend, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified as Russian officials threatened to drop the International Space Station on the United States and its allies and Putin ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear deterrence forces on high alert.
Putin blamed rhetoric and posturing from NATO allies and thoroughgoing economic sanctions against Russia for why he put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert.