Rainer Saks: Lukashenko's Poland threats should be taken as humor

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Belarusian regime leader Alexander Lukashenko's threats regarding Poland should be taken as a form of humor, as Belarus, nevermind Russia, has no real plans or even capacity to organize an attack on Poland, Estonian security expert Rainer Saks said on Monday.

"For another thing, Poland certainly has no intention of invading Belarus or western Ukraine either, as Russia has tried to claim," Saks said in an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" on Monday. "This talk is an attempt to create an information context, first and foremost in Russia, to motivate their army to fight and to prolong the war for a long time. By showing as though this were a bigger conflict between the West and Russia."

He recalled that from Russia's perspective, this was initially supposed to be a special operation of limited scope to impose a Russia-friendly agenda on Ukraine, but absolutely nothing has come of that.

"And now Russia's leadership is in trouble," the security expert said. "They've sustained major losses and military defeats, and on top of that, there's been talk throughout spring of an imminent major Ukrainian offensive. And the [Wagner Group chief Yevgeny] Prigozhin's rebellion placed everything going on in Russia in a new context altogether."

It's clear to the president of Russia that he has to make personal efforts in order to regain control of the situation, he noted.

"But this so-called Poland caper is comical, and it's starting to resemble the end of the Soviet era, where attempts were made to artificially keep alive an ideology that was long since dead," he continued. "This is a relatively foolish choice on their part right now, and it'll hardly seriously mobilize Russian people to back Russia's current leaders."

Saks highlighted that Russia's entire army is currently preoccupied in Ukraine, meaning they have no reserves left. Russia's own internal political situation is likewise more volatile than it was a year, year and a half ago.

"Russia lacks any capacity whatsoever to expand this military activity anywhere," he said. "So in this particular case I don't think there's even any point in organizing any sort of provocation here. Because all of it would just end up being ridiculous. Even if Russia were to stage some sort of provocation involving actors in Polish military uniforms on Belarusian territory, there is no way it would even be capable of responding to that. And in that sense, there's no need to fear any kind of armed action. This is pure informational warfare, not actual military planning."

Poland's decision to move additional troops to its eastern border in response, meanwhile, he considered to be justified.

"Poland made a wise choice — they are putting on their own pressure, saying, 'If you're gonna yap like this here and organize some kind of information attacks, then we're gonna give you an actual response,'" the Estonian security expert said. "And that certainly demonstrates to Russia and Belarus that there's no point in even trying to stage anything; that Poland is prepared to respond. Poland is doing what it's doing right now very well. It's rearming its military and strengthening its army. And so Poland's actions are exceptionally appropriate, in any case, and will certainly rein in Russia and Belarus' behavior."

Wagner pay, subordination unclear

Regarding the Wagner Group, Prigozhin's paramilitary and private military company (PMC) which recently relocated to Belarus, Saks said that they haven't taken considerable arms with them, nor do they pose a particular threat.

"Their subordination relationship is indeed a bit vague right now, because they've never really actually left from under the control of Russian power structures," he explained. "The majority of Russia's higher-ranking officers are currently removed from duty, which means that that was still a case of broader discontent in the Russian Army, resulting in Prigozhin's resignation."

The Estonian expert emphasized that the subordination and future activity of the Wagner forces currently on Belarusian territory certainly hasn't been resolved right now, adding that a few individuals currently training Belarusian special units is moreso a media production.

"You can go ahead and publish photos [alleging] some sort of joint training going on there, but in reality, no serious training between Belarusian and Wagner forces has begun," he said. "Prigozhin is likely in talks with Russian leadership first and foremost regarding what their utilization could look like in the future."

Saks said that Wagner troops don't want to go back to fight in Ukraine because they feel as though they were betrayed by Russia's leadership and blame Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, appointed by Vladimir Putin to lead Russia's war in Ukraine, for Wagner's major losses in Bakhmut this spring.

"And Russia's leadership is likely incapable of changing this attitude," he said. "There are other various opportunities for utilizing them in the future. But on the other hand it's also clear that Prigozhin himself can't maintain them as a private army. It's not like he's ever paid them out of his own pocket anyway, because as the Russian president has also said, that money has come from [Russia's] state budget. But this kind of messy situation can't last for very long. Belarus' regime leader Lukashenko has likewise said that they're not going to start paying [Wagner forces] out of Belarus' budget."


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: