U.S. Targets Belarus For Intensive Reconnaissance: Russia Deploys Nuclear Bombers to Guard Ally

Amid rising tensions between Belarus and NATO, the United States Air Force reportedly conducted extensive surveillance over the Soviet successor state including radioelectronic monitoring of its entire territory and optoelectronic reconnaissance of its western regions. These activities were reported on December 18 by the Deputy head of the Belarusian Security Council Major General Vladimir Archakov. “The intensity of flights, performed by U.S. intelligence and strategic aviation, has increased in Poland’s airspace, near Belarusian state border, which allows conducting optical-electronic reconnaissance of our western regions, and electronic reconnaissance of all country's territory. Military component has been added to the activities of our border service,” he stated regarding the security challenge. Archakov cited the presence of 4,000 U.S. personnel near the Polish-Belarusian border, and a new agreement on expanded cooperation between Washington and Warsaw allowing the deployment of about U.S. 20,000 personnel, to claim a significant security threat to Belarus. Planned defence acquisitions by the Polish Armed Forces estimated at around $133 billion worth from 2021-2035, mainly from the United States, were also cited as a threat to Belarus. “It is obvious that Polish and U.S. interests in the East European region coincided. The US views the presence of its troops on Polish territory as a ‘tool to deter Moscow’," Archakov concluded.

Belarusian officials have cited the growing U.S. military presence in Poland and planned deployment of American long-range missiles to Europe as serious security threats. The country has moved to make new acquisitions of Russian hardware including possibly Iskander hypersonic ballistic missiles as well as S-400 long range air defence systems. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also indicated that the country could host Russian nuclear weapons with the Soviet era infrastructure for such assets still being in place and maintained. Minsk’s relations with the Western Bloc deteriorated from 2020 as Western powers sought to support pro-Western protesters and rioters in the country and placed increasingly harsh economic sanctions on Belarus. Russia previously supported Belarus during high tensions in November by flying nuclear capable bombers over its territory, which were escorted by Belarusian fighter jets. On December 18th, shortly after American reconnaissance missions targeting Belarus were reported, Russia deployed Tu-22M3 bombers for further overflights as a show of force and a signal to NATO. Belarus has moved to a more closely integrate its defence with Russia amid growing perceived threats from the West. 

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