Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 102

A senior official of the Russia-Belarus Union’s Executive Committee stated yesterday that the Union plans to create a “regional group of military forces.” According to the official, implementation can begin immediately upon ratification of the military agreements signed last December by Russia and Belarus (see the Monitor, December 23, 1997). The two Defense Ministries are at the moment selecting the deployment sites of the future joint units, the official said, apparently referring to sites in Belarus. He postulated that “the Russia-Belarus Union is entitled to possess security mechanisms and to defend its interests in areas where they are challenged by unfriendly countries.” (Russian agencies, May 27)

The official, Aleksandr Bevzo, carries the title of “Head of the Executive Committee’s General Directorate for Special Programs”–a customary euphemistic designation of a military and security body. The emergence of this body shows that the Russia-Belarus Union has created an embryonic department for military and security affairs. The Executive Committee itself is the Union’s intergovernmental executive organ, co-chaired by the Russian and Belarusan prime ministers. The public airing of this proposal accompanies Russian military muscle-flexing with regard to the CIS and the Baltic region (see CIS and Baltic sections above).

Bevzo’s reference to “unfriendly countries” may well target NATO’s new members and aspiring members which border on Belarus and Russia–namely, Poland and the Baltic states. However, a draft document just leaked in Minsk suggests that official consideration is being given to drafting Belarusans for service with Russian troops stationed in CIS countries. The content of the document was made public yesterday by the Popular Front’s acting chairman, Lyavon Barshchevsky, who referred to sources inside the government. (Russian agencies, May 27)