Russia’s military presence in Belarus unlikely to change
Minsk is unlikely to revoke Russia’s military presence, which pays off by facilitating solutions to some practical and political issues.
On August 3rd, 2018, the Defence Ministry’s response to the Belarusian Popular Front’s appeal concerning the prospects for the extension of the Russian military presence in Belarus (the 43rd communication centre of the Russian Navy near Vileika and the 474th radio engineering unit near Gantsevich), was made public. It said, in particular, that Belarus would decide on the fate of these facilities based on her national interests before June 6th, 2020. The Ministry’s response was evasive, however, due to the fact that Russia is modernising the 474th radio engineering unit, Moscow has the intention to continue operating the facility in the future. In addition, it seems to be confident that Belarus would not interfere.
The facilities in Vileyka and Gantsevichi do not have the status of a military base and do not have the combat potential. In response to their deployment, Russia provides Belarus with different military and military-technical services at no cost. Usually, the Belarusian authorities use their indirect participation in Russia’s strategic defence strategy for propaganda purposes to influence public opinion in Russia and as an argument in communication with the Kremlin on issues of interest to Belarus.
So far, Minsk has no valid reasons to refuse to extend the Russian military presence in Belarus: top-level Belarusian officials have repeatedly referred to its practical meaning. The parties are likely to coordinate the extension of the Russian military presence in Belarus until 2026.