Belarus: NATO pullback will factor into Russian troop withdrawal

The withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus amid heightened tensions with Ukraine would primarily depend on NATO pulling back its own forces from the region, the head of the Belarusian army said on Monday, according to Reuters

“The Russian Armed Forces’ units will return to their permanent bases only when an objective need for that arises and when we decide,” Viktor Gulevich said.

“In no small measure this will also depend on our Western counterparts. The forces and equipment deployed in the eastern European region, including near Belarus … are one of the factors that influence the development of the situation,” he added.

Gulevich said he believes it is within the country’s rights to demand the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO member forces from near its borders, including in neighboring countries Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, Reuters noted.

His statements come amid Russia’s military buildup on the border of Ukraine, which has sparked predictions that the country will invade its neighbor. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday the U.S. believes the Kremlin is planning an “extremely violent” takeover. 

Russia deployed its military force to Belarus on Feb. 10 as part of a broader buildup of its troops. While the military exercises were meant to end Sunday, Russia and Belarus announced that they would extend the drills due to an “increase in military activity.”

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, a move feared to be a pretext for military action.

Tags Belarus Jake Sullivan NATO Russia Russo-Ukrainian War Ukraine Viktor Gulevich Vladimir Putin

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