The Belarusian armed forces have limited capability. They are undermanned and mostly equipped with dated weapon systems. But as Russia’s only ally on its western border, Belarus would play a critical role in the event of a Russia-NATO conflict.
The aftermath of the August 2020 election, the forced landing of Ryanair flight 4978 and the arrest of opposition activist Roman Protasevich, the manufacturing of a migrant crisis at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border and, most recently, Belarusian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya’s refusal to leave Tokyo after her Olympic performance have served to focus much attention on Belarus, and on its relationship with Russia.
In the 1990s, Belarus had the highest concentration of military forces in the world, but its military power has since declined steadily. This analysis uses open-source intelligence to examine in detail the structure and capability of the Belarusian Armed Forces today. On their own, they would struggle to carry out their assigned missions. But Lukashenko’s incautious actions and consequent isolation have compelled Minsk to accept an ever-closer defence relationship with Moscow. The analysis also describes the de facto subordination of the Belarusian armed forces to Russia’s military command structures, and their wartime role of providing substantial logistic support to Russia’s armed forces.