Wagner PMC Continues To Train Belarusian Military
Russia Drafts New Legislation for Putin-Controlled Militias
Media reports highlighted footage of Wagner troops continuing to train Belarusian soldiers, following stunning armed rebellion of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, the geopolitical dynamics in Eastern Europe are shifting.
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are taking swift actions that could redefine their military strategies, alliances, and the balance of power in the region.
Lukashenko has traditionally been seen as aligned closely with Putin, often characterized as Putin's puppet. However, in the chaos following Wagner's mutiny, Lukashenko appears to be seizing the opportunity to distance Belarus from Moscow's orbit and reduce his country's reliance on Russia.
In late June, Lukashenko played a critical role in brokering negotiations between the Kremlin and the Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, ending the short-lived rebellion. The outcome seemingly exiled Prigozhin to Belarus, where his mercenaries were offered a chance to join him.
Belarus's eagerness to capitalize on this situation has become evident. An abandoned military camp in the Asipovichy district was offered to host Wagner fighters so they could train Belarus's armed forces. In mid-July, Minsk announced that Wagner had begun training Belarusian territorial defense units, a move that symbolizes a significant shift in the nation's military alliances.
While Belarus seeks to redefine its military strategy, Putin is forming a network of private military companies, or "special enterprises," across Russia. This move, part of a new bill that raises the draft age for the Russian military, is aimed at countering sabotage and internal threats, according to Duma defense committee chairman Andrey Kartapolov.
This development comes on the heels of the Wagner mutiny, which exposed glaring weaknesses in Putin's defenses. The group's fighters met minimal resistance as they seized Rostov-on-Don in June and advanced toward Moscow. Though the mutiny was halted, it revealed the potential for internal threats to Putin's power.
As a result, Putin's new militias will operate under the command of regional governors but will act at Putin's behest and be armed by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Their job will encompass the protection of state borders, combating illegal armed groups, foreign sabotage, intelligence formations, and quashing internal threats.
The interaction between these militias and other branches of the Russian military and intelligence apparatus is still unclear. With Russia already having a national guard and Putin surrounded by layers of security, the necessity and function of these new forces require further clarification.
Nikolai Sokov, a former Kremlin official, stated that the law was intended to fortify Putin's defenses. Additionally, defending against internal attacks, especially following Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian cities, will be another core function of the militias.