Friday, September 11, 2015

And the New Austria, Too

I've noted that Belarus could be the most important territory of our age given that Russian possession of that former Soviet territory gives them access to a lot of targets just as Belgian territory provided access for the Germans to get at France in two world wars. For Ukraine, Belarus is not the new Belgium, but the new Austria, giving Russia the ability to hit their flank the way Anschluss with Austria gave Nazi Germany the ability to outflank Czechoslovakia's defenses.

Belarus is facing pressure from Putin:

One of the unexpected consequences of Russia's annexation of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine has been a chill in relations between Minsk and Moscow and a thaw in those between Belarus and the West. ...

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is due in Minsk on September 9, ostensibly for a meeting of the Eurasian Union's intergovernmental council.

But according to Russian press reports, the real goal of Medvedev's trip is to deliver a message from the Kremlin: It's time to stop bobbing and weaving between Moscow and the West and get on board.

Specifically, Russia wants Belarus to allow it to build a new air base on Belarusian territory -- something Lukashenka had been resisting.

The base would be located in Babruysk, in eastern Belarus, and would station SU-27 fighter jets manned by Russian pilots, reported.

It would significantly project Russian military power westward, allowing Moscow to threaten and intimidate not only Ukraine but also Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

And if Lukashenka continues to resist? Well, then the upcoming Belarusian presidential election gives Moscow a major opportunity to tighten the screws on him.

According to Arseniy Sivitsky and Yury Tsarik of the Belarusian Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research, Moscow is laying the groundwork to destabilize Belarus in the aftermath of the October 11 election -- creating the "illusion of a Maidan," so Russian forces could then enter the country to restore order.

I've long worried about the threat Russia could pose to the West if Russia took Belarus.

And after the Russo-Georgia War, that possibility seemed more real than theoretical.

Belarus is the new Belgium as far as NATO is concerned as that quoted article above makes clear--which makes Belarus the most important territory in Europe today, I think.

But for Ukraine, Russian control of Belarus would threaten Ukraine's northern flank in the same manner that Germany's Anschluss with Austria outflanked Czechoslovakia's frontier defenses.

As for modern Germany, how far west does a hostile Russia have to approach before the Germans rebuild their pathetically small and inadequate army to make German warnings to Russia more than a joke updated from the 19th century version (Putin: If Germany sends their army, we'll call the police.")?

And no, an 8-year plan to correct the material deficiencies of their existing pathetically small military won't do it.

But would Germany--and the rest of Europe--even react to a Russian Anschluss with Belarus while they struggle to deal with the refugee migration to Europe caused in part by Russia's support for Putin? With the cooperation of Greece (and Hungary) that funnels refugees north and west?

Interesting times we live in. The Russian occupation of Belarus would be disturbing. Perhaps all the noise about intervening in Syria is mostly a smoke screen to hit Minsk, eh?