Russian Ally Deploys Tanks Near NATO Border

Reports indicate that tanks have been stationed near Belarus’s border with a NATO member country, adding fuel to the fire of simmering discord between Russia and the alliance over the conflict in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian media outlet reported that the Belarusian military had activated reserve forces and begun extensive military exercises. Reportedly, tanks and troops from the 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade of Belarus were stationed close to the nation’s western border with Lithuania, a NATO member.

According to the Community of Railway Workers of Belarus, a train carrying military equipment and personnel arrived in Oshmyany, less than fifteen miles from the Lithuanian border. This group opposes the policies of Russian ally and Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.

The train that the organization claims arrived at Oshmyany station consisted of four carriages carrying Belarusian soldiers and forty-two vehicles carrying nine T-72B tanks. An article in a Belarusian outlet said that the deployment also included BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles, which the Belarusian Ministry of Defense subsequently verified.

The T-72B is a main combat tank manufactured by Russia. As a production model, it is an upgrade over the T-72A. Prominent NATO nations deployed new-generation main battle tanks in the 1970s and 1980s.  

In a statement circulated on social media, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said that a military training exercise would be held in an area encompassing Oshmyany until April 5. Reportedly, other drills were also underway in several other locations in Belarus, including those close to the country’s boundary with NATO member Poland.

In February, Lukashenko compared Poland and the US to Adolf Hitler and the plot to carry out a provocation that would be blamed on Russia and Belarus.   During an interview on Russian state television, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin seemed to threaten NATO in a subsequent interview. 

After receiving a delivery of tactical nuclear arms from Russia in 2023, Belarus stated earlier this year that it had established a new military doctrine permitting the use of atomic weapons.

Meanwhile, NATO’s biggest military drill in Europe in generations is happening now. More than 90,000 soldiers from each of the alliance’s 32 member nations are participating in Operation Steadfast Defender until May.

Russian officials have said that the drill is really a dress rehearsal for an impending NATO assault on their country.