The United States and NATO believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine, U.S. and NATO officials told CNN, and that the country is already taking steps to make.
It is increasingly “likely” that Belarus will enter the conflict, a NATO military official said on Monday.
“Putin needs support. Anything would help,” the manager explained.
A Belarusian opposition source said Belarusian combat units are ready to enter Ukraine as early as the next few days, with thousands of forces ready to deploy. In the opinion of this source, this will have less impact militarily than geopolitically, given the implications of another country entering the war.
A senior NATO intelligence official said separately that the alliance believes the Belarusian government is “preparing the environment to justify a Belarusian offensive against Ukraine.”
Belarusians voted last month to allow the country to accommodate both Russian forces and nuclear weapons permanently, although US officials told CNN they have yet to see any evidence that Russia is moving nuclear weapons or preparing to do so.
The sources pointed out that there is no indication so far that Belarus is currently involved in the fighting in Ukraine, and a senior US defense official said the Pentagon has seen “no indication that the Belarusians are preparing to move … to Ukraine or that they have concluded agreements to do so.
NATO military official says final decision on Belarusian involvement in war still needs to be made in Moscow, and so far there are no indications that Belarusian forces are taking part in fighting in Ukraine .
“It’s not about what [Alexander] Lukashenko wants,” the official explained, referring to the Belarusian president. “The question is: does Putin want another unstable country in the region?”
“Involvement would destabilize Belarus,” the official said.
The official did not specify how Belarus might intervene in the war, but said it made sense for Russia to try to cut off NATO military aid to Ukraine from its western border.
More background: Russia has used Belarus as a springboard for many of its air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence gathered by NATO surveillance planes flying over the Polish-Ukrainian border and radar seen by CNN.
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed reporting for this post.