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NATO Claims It Feels Threatened by a Handful of Russian Troops in Belarus

Sept. 29, 2020 (EIRNS)—NATO has been put “on alert” because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “embrace” of President Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus, the Wall Street Journal reported, because allegedly not all of the Russian troops that were involved in the Sept. 14-25 “Slavic Brotherhood” exercise in Belarus have left the country. In NATO’s view, Russian troops in Belarus constitute a threat to the so-called Suwalki Gap, the stretch of Poland’s border with Lithuania between Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad Baltic exclave. That border region is NATO’s only overland connection between the Baltic States and the rest of the Alliance.

According to the Journal, Putin has been pressuring Lukashenko to allow Russian military bases on Belarusian territory. “That could position Russian forces as a pincer on either side of that border,” the Journal claims. In fact, the emergence of the “Suwalki Gap” in the first place is actually a function of the encroachment of NATO ever closer to Russia’s borders, and not the result of any ostensible threat coming from Russia.

Not surprisingly, the Journal’s main source for its analysis is retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commander of U.S. Army Europe, who has made a post-retirement career out of playing up the alleged Russian threat to NATO. “Suwalki is much less of a concern if you don’t have Russian troops in Belarus,” Hodges told the Journal. “If you do, it’s a different calculation in terms of the time, speed and power they can bring.”

This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of intending to leave troops in Belarus. In 2017, around that year’s Zapad (West) exercise, Poland and the Baltic states were stirred up to the point of hysteria over theories that Russia was using the exercise as a cover for an intended invasion from Belarus. What happened in reality was that all of the Russian troops in Belarus for the exercise went back to their home stations in Russia after the exercise concluded—end of story.

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