Armed Forces

Russian-Belarusian Forces Group Closing on Ukraine

Photo. Mинистерство обороны Республики Беларусь/Facebook

Russian Armed Forces have transferred some of its units deployed to Belarus to the area near the southern border of this country. Minsk is meanwhile extending the timeline for the ongoing exercise, also cutting off access to the area near the border. Invasion against Ukraine, from Belarus, is a prospect that is becoming increasingly more realistic, however, several extra steps are needed for the forces to be ready for that invasion.

Recently, a series of events unfolded in Ukraine, showing that possibly the country may be getting ready to launch an aggression against Ukraine. MotolkoHelp reported that several Russian T-72 and T-80 main battle tanks, as well as BMP-2 IFVs, have been deployed during three railway transport operations, that also were used to deploy the logistics support assets. Information also emerged that one of the stages of the Russian Forces' training activities has come to an end and that the exercise would be extended for the whole detachment until 29th December.

Belarus now is also restricting access to several districts neighbouring Ukraine. Analogous steps were made by Russia last year before the full-scale aggression against Ukraine was launched.

Does this mean that an attack from Belarus could happen now? There are many signs suggesting that this is the case, but the combined Russian-Belarusian force is not ready for an invasion yet. Above all, the Russian units in Belarus, even when combined with the Belarussian Army that has not yet carried out the expected mobilization, are too small to effectively attack Ukraine. The Russians have already tried attacking Kyiv without mobilization, paying a high price for that - not following the well-known Russian doctrine. It is not probable they would make the same mistake again, in the case of the combined Russian-Belarusian force.

Photo. Министерство обороны Республики Беларусь/Facebook

The Belarusian Army is even more dependent on mobilization than its Russian counterpart before 24th February 2022. Most of its units, with an exception of the Special Operations (SOF/Air Assault) component, are poorly staffed. This is a pain point for the support units in particular - especially the artillery component.

The Belarusians have a lot of surplus equipment at hand, with numerous trained reserve troops. Lukashenko may use that, however, the offensive mobilization takes time. Even if the reservists report on time, some time is needed for force integration. One should also add information provided by Gen. Zaluzhny or the Ukrainian MoD, or the Foreign Ministry, on the risk of attack in early 2023 (dates from January until March were being mentioned), and the information released by the US Government into the whole equation - so far the narrative of USG has been suggesting there is no immediate risk of an invasion.

Photo. Министерство обороны Республики Беларусь/Facebook

All of the above shows that Russia and Belarus are in the process of establishing a capability to jointly attack Ukraine, but that process will still take some time. Official mobilization in Belarus or deployment of more equipment from Russia could be viewed as potential warning signs.