CNBC has published the editorial warning that the large-scale Russian military exercises in Belarus is set-up for annexation of Belarus. How plausible is this scenario?
From Putin’s point of view the question is not whether it’s doable, the question is why did not we do it already. What are the arguments:
- It’s definitely doable. Neither Belarus army nor population will offer any resistance, quite the opposite. They already live under dictatorship, Putin’s rule would be improvement of their current situation, with a promise of more economic benefits for population.
- Russia is already heavily sanctioned so any further sanctions are hardly deterrent against invasion. Risk of military conflict with NATO forces is highly unlikely, NATO’s European allies will be fuming and that is as far it goes. US political and military leverage is already overstretched over too many conflict zones – Middle East, Korea, Afghanistan.
- Geopolitically Putin has everything to win and nothing to lose. This move will strengthen his standing in Russian political environment, put a stop to flow of contraband goods through Belorus border, encircle Ukraine and increase Putin’s leverage to to get concessions from West once the things quieten up.