Russia is expected to send dozens of warplanes, helicopters and air defence systems that could include S-400 missiles. The move comes as the two Slavic countries gear up for joint military war games starting next week which will involve roughly 200,000 troops. Minsk and Moscow continue to forge ever closer ties in the wake of last year’s political unrest in Belarus, following the contested Presidential elections in August.
Thousands of protesters took to the street to demand that Mr Lukasheko stand down, following reports of widespread electoral fraud.
The demonstrations were eventually brutally crushed by the regime, forcing opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to flee the country.
Lukashenko sought to characterise the upcoming military exercises as part of joint efforts between Belarus and Russia to counter Western pressure.
“We effectively have a single army, with the Belarusian military forming its backbone in the western direction,” he said.
“If, God forbid, a war starts, the Belarusian army will be the first to engage in the fight, and the western group of Russia’s armed forces will join quickly after to form a joint defence.”
The Belarus strongman has faced tough sanctions from the US and European Union in response to his crackdown which has led to at least 35,000 people being detained by police.
In an article for the Atlantic Council, Brian Whitmore argued the Kremlin’s strategic goals are being put into place stealthily, through a combination of economic, military and political manoeuvres.
“Protestations by senior Russian officials that there are no plans to unify Russia and Belarus are a mirage and a deliberate diversion,” he wrote.
“An official merger or annexation is not necessary. The Kremlin is achieving its strategic goals in Belarus stealthily, steadily, and methodically.
“And the strategic implications of this “soft annexation” for the United States and its NATO allies are enormous.”