Minsk peacekeeping activity is unlikely to be limited to Donbas
Minsk believes, peacekeeping is an important tool for promoting Belarus in the world, not only in connection with the Russo-Ukrainian war.
On November 21st, 2019, Ukrainian President Zelensky rejected Lukashenka’s proposal to deploy Belarusian peacekeepers at the Russo-Ukrainian border in the conflict region controlled by Kyiv. This part of the border in Donetsk and Luhansk regions stretches for 409 km and Belarus’ peacekeeping capacity is limited to a company of Special Operations Forces. Zelensky’s statement is also likely to mean that Belarusian peacekeepers are generally not welcome in Donbas.
Meanwhile, it would be a mistake to consider Minsk peacekeeping efforts only in relation to the war in Donbas. The Belarusian authorities regard Belarus’ participation in international peacekeeping operations as an important element of political self-promotion and a foreign policy instrument. As of November 1st, 2019, the mine action centre of the Armed Forces of Belarus started operating within the mine service of the 2nd Engineering Brigade. Humanitarian demining is among the major activities of the centre. The centre’s staff has undergone training in international mine action centres abroad.
Participation in international peacekeeping appears to be a promising foreign policy instrument, actively and effectively used by other post-Soviet states, such as Armenia and Kazakhstan (have formed entire peacekeeping brigades). Meanwhile, Belarus’ participation in armed missions abroad is extremely unpopular in Belarusian society. To our knowledge, the Army has no plans to increase the size or capacities of Belarusian peacekeepers.
Belarus is more likely to focus on capacity building in spheres not directly related to the use of weapons, which may be in demand in international peacekeeping operations. For instance, Belarus may choose humanitarian demining as an area of specialization and/or military medicine: since 2016, a specialized army centre has been operating for treating gunshot wounds and mine-explosive injuries.