Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko will meet this Sunday to discuss a military build-up on the Belarussian border with Poland, according to official Russian sources.
Poland is one of the newest members of the NATO alliance.
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, external relations official for the Russian Defense Ministry, stated that the leaders of Russia and Belarus will discuss an increase of their forces opposing NATO on the Belarussian border.
The report was carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
Though Poland is currently the only official member of NATO bordering Belarus, the increase in military forces could have significant implications for Latvia and Lithuania, which also border Belarus, and which have expressed their interest in joining NATO. Ukraine, another neighbor of Belarus, is split on the question of membership in NATO.
Ivashov stated that the discussion of the two presidents regarding a military build-up was a response to “American-led aggression against Federal Yugoslavia.”
Russia has also consistently voiced its opposition to NATO expansion eastwards.
Ivashov said the forces to be stationed on the border would be defensive in nature, and consistent with the new military policy adopted by the Union of Russia and Belarus.
Russia and Belarus have grown increasingly close since the signing of a treaty combining the two states into a community on April 2, 1996. On December 8, 1999, Russia and Belarus declared a union of the two states. Defense is one of a number of national functions that Russia and Belarus are placing under the control of the union.
Lukashenko, a former collective farm manager and admirer of Josef Stalin, is the president of the union.
As reported in WorldNetDaily, Ivashov recently warned that Russia was drawing up plans for military intervention into Kosovo, should Moscow determine that NATO’s forces will not properly protect the Serb population in the province.
Moscow and Minsk have been planning a combined military command on the western border of Belarus for some time. Ivashov’s statement, however, puts the new military structure within the context of Russia’s continuing bitter hostility to NATO’s activities in Kosovo.
Lukashenko is enthusiastic in his support of using Belarus’ western borders for the defense of Russia. In the past, he has called for the re-establishment of the Soviet Union, and has retired the national flag of Belarus in favor of the flag of Belarus used in the Soviet era.
A return of Russian military to the Polish border opens a second point of tension between Russia and NATO over the Kosovo question.
It is also reminiscent of the alignment of forces in Eastern Europe immediately prior to the Second World War when Soviet Russia invaded Poland following Hitler’s initial assault.
Poland could again find itself on the front line facing massed Russian — and Belarussian — divisions.