After Russia’s failure to make headway in its war on Ukraine, recent developments in neighboring Belarus and Moldova suggest Russian premier Vladimir Putin could be considering more radical means to win the war.
Belarus, long a close Russian ally, has provided support and access to Russian troops without itself sending soldiers. However, President Alexander Lukashenko recently said Belarus would not attack Ukraine unless first attacked. Such statements could be intended to establish pretext for a so-called false flag operation during the spring once his country’s new 100,0000 person volunteer army is equipped.
To Ukraine’s west, Moldova has flagged suspected destabilization efforts that revived fears that the Russian backed Transnistria breakaway region could be used to attack the relatively soft east. Moscow seemed to confirm its intolerance of Moldova’s pro-Western stance this week when Putin revoked a decree that guaranteed Moldovan sovereignty.
While Ukrainian and Moldovan intelligence organizations have so far been effective at thwarting Moscow’s alleged plots, and analysts doubt Russia’s capacity to expand the conflict, additional fronts in the war would quickly stretch Ukraine and its allies. A pincer move on two sides of Ukraine would test the West’s economic and political commitment to Kiev while escalating the chances of a true proxy conflict as China is reportedly considering supplying weapons to Russia.