Ukraine Threatens Missile Strike on Belarus - But Can its Military Actually Do It?

On March 1 the Secretary of Ukraine's Security Council, Alexey Danilov, announced that Kiev was considering launching missile strikes on neighbouring Belarus. This follows claims by the Ukrainian government that Belarusian troops have supported Russian military operations against the country, although failing to provide evidence. Minsk has denied participating in the Russian offensive, although Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stressed after Ukraine’s threats were made that the country was prepared to defend itself if attacked. Belarus remains Russia’s only military ally in Europe, and has since mid 2021 moved to closely integrate its armed forces with those of Russia due to perceptions of shared threats from neighbouring Western powers. 

Russia launched a military intervention in Ukraine on February 24, and has since taken considerable ground with Ukraine’s Air Force and air defences in particular taking heavy losses. The obsolescence of Ukraine’s conventional forces, dating back to the 1970s and 80s, has led it to rely heavy on asymmetric assets. These have most notably included U.S.-supplied anti Javelin tank missiles used in infantry units, and to a lesser extent SS-21 Tochka short ranged ballistic missiles inherited from the Soviet Union. Ballistic missiles have reportedly been used for strikes on Russian-backed separatist forces within Ukraine, as well as on a Russian airbase near the country in the war’s opening hours. With Ukraine’s small fleet of Su-24M strike fighters reportedly out of action after heavy losses, the Tochka provides likely the only means of threatening targets within Belarus beyond artillery range. Its very short range well under 200km, however, seriously limits its ability to threaten Belarusian targets, as does the presence of Russian and indigenous air defences in Belarus.

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