Washington: The US and NATO believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine, the US and NATO officials said, adding that the country is already taking steps to do so, CNN reported.
It is increasingly “likely” that Belarus will enter the conflict, a NATO military official said on Monday, adding: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin needs support. Anything would help.”
An opposition source in Belarus said that Belarusian combat units are ready to go into Ukraine as soon as in the next few days, with thousands of forces prepared to deploy. In this source’s view, this would have less of an impact militarily than it will geopolitically, given the implications of another country joining the war, CNN reported.
A senior NATO intelligence official said separately that the alliance assesses that the Belarusian government “is preparing the environment to justify a Belarusian offensive against Ukraine”.
Russia has launched its attack on Ukraine in part from Belarus’ territory, and thousands of Russian troops had amassed in Belarus ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine last month, which the two countries had claimed was for training exercises.
US and European sanctions in response to the war have targeted Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as well.
Belarus moved to change its Constitution last month to allow the country to host both Russian forces and nuclear weapons permanently, though US officials have emphasised to CNN that they have not yet seen any evidence of Russia moving nuclear weapons or preparing to do so.