According to a former Russian officer, the Wagner Group’s repositioning forces in Belarus allows Russia to strike NATO targets close to Poland and Lithuania quickly.
According to the Sun, Andrey Kartapolov is a former Russian colonel and politician who told Russian state TV that the private military group Wagner Group can strike the border area of Poland and Lithuania within “a few hours” of its new location in Belarus.
After an apparent failure of the Wagner Group’s uprising led by Yevgeny Prgozhin last month, the Russian mercenary group’s presence in Belarus is a result. As part of a Kremlin deal to end the uprising, Prigozhin agreed exile in Belarus. Wagner fighters are now joining him, and reportedly helping to train the Belarusian military.
Belarus, which is aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the war in Ukraine sits at an important strategic crossroads in Europe. It borders NATO countries like Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, in addition to Ukraine. That border includes the strategically-important Suwalki Corridor, a 60-mile strip of land along the border of Poland and Lithuania that sits between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet.
Kartapolov, during his television appearance, said, “Should something happen, we will need this Suwalki Corridor extremely,” according to the report. “A strike force [from Wagner forces in Belarus] will be ready in hours to seize this corridor.”
Rebekah Koffler, a former DIA officer, and author, believes that the movement of Wagner forces into Belarus could be part of Putin’s plan for opening up a new front in the Ukraine War.
Koffler stated that the repositioning was part of Putin’s plan to open a second front in Belarus which now has tactical nuclear weapons. “Putin, under the guise of the so-called Prigozhin coup, placed Wagner, his most dangerous fighting force, within striking distance both of Kyiv, Ukraine, and NATO’s borders – Latvia and Lithuania.”
Koffler, while not believing that Putin was trying to strike NATO with this move, did say it was a means for Putin to “be prepared” in case the Kremlin feared an escalation in the conflict between the U.S.
Koffler stated that “Russia’s General Staff, which does long-term predictions, estimated a decade earlier that a war between Russia, the U.S./NATO was ‘inevitable’.” “Moscow interprets every U.S. or NATO move through this prism. Putin interprets this latest deployment as a sign that the U.S. will be ready to fight.”
Koffler, however, warned that Russia might still decide to launch an initial attack from Belarus. He argued that any NATO action Putin interprets to be escalators may cause him to take action.
Koffler stated that Putin will not wait until the U.S. strikes first. If Russian intelligence believes that U.S./NATO troops are about to enter the conflict, Putin is likely to do as Kartapolov has warned.