Moscow outlines plans for joint force with key ally
The joint Russian-Belarusian military force performs a solely defensive role, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said on Saturday. The diplomat also dismissed any speculation that it could be deployed in the Ukraine conflict.
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Galuzin noted that “the task of the joint Russian-Belarusian group of troops is, if necessary, to fight back against a would-be aggressor, should the territory of our ally Belarus be invaded."
At the same time, he added, “it is incorrect to present a question regarding the possibility of using this force in the special military operation in Ukraine.”
The diplomat noted that, according to the military doctrine of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, if a member state comes under attack, such a move would be considered as an invasion against the organization as a whole. The relevant response measures in this case “remain at the discretion of the political and military leadership of Russia and Belarus,” he added.
The joint force was first announced in early October by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, citing NATO’s increased military activity at the country’s borders. It is said to comprise around 9,000 Russian troops, with some 70,000 Belarusian service members making up the bulk of the force. Earlier this month, the Belarusian president said that the two countries' militaries were “training like a single force, a single army.”
Minsk has also repeatedly accused neighboring Ukraine of attempting provocations and of harboring plans to conduct a strike on Belarus, which Kiev has vehemently denied.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Lukashenko in Minsk, claiming during a press conference that the two allied nations would continue their joint exercises to boost their military readiness. He also reiterated that Russia has absolutely no plan or interest in “swallowing” Belarus, adding that Moscow intends only to foster economic integration with Minsk.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory during the military operation in Ukraine.