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China’s Military Drills with Belarus: A Strategic and Ominous Move on the Polish Border

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China and Belarus, both close allies of Russia, have commenced joint military exercises near the Polish border, marking a significant deepening of their military and political ties. These exercises, named “Eagle Assault,” are set to last 11 days and involve extensive anti-terrorism training, including tasks such as hostage rescue operations. This collaboration, while presented as an anti-terrorist measure, has broader and more ominous implications for regional stability and global geopolitics.

The Scope of the Exercises

The drills are taking place in Brest, a city perilously close to the Polish border. Chinese military personnel arrived at the Baranovichi air base, about 100 miles southwest of Minsk. The sight of Chinese soldiers unloading their equipment from a Xian Y-20 heavy airlifter, nicknamed “Chubby Girl,” while being greeted by a Belarusian military brass band, was a clear demonstration of the growing military bond between the two nations. According to Belarus’ Ministry of Defence, these exercises aim to “improve coordination between Belarusian and Chinese units,” enhancing their capability to conduct joint operations.

Strengthening Military Ties

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been a steadfast ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially since the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has hosted Russian tactical nuclear drills and agreed to store Russian nuclear warheads. The recent exercises with China underscore Belarus’s strategic pivot towards closer military cooperation with its Eastern allies. The drills will involve integrated training and mixed-unit drills, reflecting a significant step in their military partnership. China’s state-run Global Times reported, “Set against the backdrop of counterterrorism operations, this joint exercise will feature integrated training and mixed-unit drills.”

Geopolitical Implications

The collaboration between China and Belarus is a clear indicator of the shifting alliances in the region. With both nations supporting Russia amidst the Ukraine conflict, their military cooperation on the Polish border raises concerns for NATO and the European Union. These drills signal a potential challenge to regional stability and reflect a broader strategy of resisting Western influence and sanctions.

The exercises come just days after Belarus officially joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a group led by China and Russia focused on economic, military, and political collaboration in Central Asia. During the SCO summit in Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on member states to “join hands to resist external interference” by increasing military and intelligence contact. This move aligns with Belarus’s recent actions, further solidifying its role as a key player in the Eastern bloc.

Economic and Political Dimensions

Belarus and China have significantly strengthened their economic ties over the past year. Lukashenko’s recent visits to China resulted in agreements worth over $3.5 billion, further solidifying their economic partnership. China views Belarus as a crucial partner in its Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at expanding Chinese economic influence through infrastructure development.

Moreover, the joint military exercises highlight the strategic importance of Belarus to China’s geopolitical ambitions. Belarus serves as a key transit point for Chinese goods entering Europe, making it a pivotal player in China’s broader economic strategy. This relationship has grown even more critical as Belarus faces diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions from the West due to its support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The Future of the Alliance

As Belarus continues to face diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions from the West, its alliance with China and Russia becomes increasingly critical. The frequent meetings between Lukashenko and Chinese President Xi Jinping underscore their mutual commitment to deepening bilateral ties. This partnership is likely to have significant implications for the regional balance of power, especially considering the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the broader geopolitical tensions.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping recently indicated his support for Russia, stating on the sidelines of the SCO summit that China “has always stood on the right side of history.” This declaration, coupled with the deepening military and economic ties between China and Belarus, paints a grim picture for the future of regional stability. The exercises near the Polish border, while framed as counter-terrorism training, are most certainly a precursor to more aggressive military incursion into the European theater.

Conclusion

The joint military exercises between China and Belarus on the Polish border signify a deepening of their military, economic, and political alliance. This partnership gives China a potential foothold, should the Russia-Ukraine war widen to include more countries, or in future conflicts involving its allies Russia and Belarus. This allows China a staging area to deploy its military when it wants to become directly involved. And, of course, China is more than capable of directing its allies to exactly the kind of war it wants.

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