The United Kingdom’s new army chief has warned that British soldiers “must prepare to fight in Europe once again” amid the Ukraine-Russia war — and as concern is mounting that Belarus troops could join the Russian invasion.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, in a message to his soldiers, said Russia’s attack on Ukraine “underlines our core purpose to protect the UK by being ready to right and win wars on land,” according to Sky News.
Sir Sanders, who just took over the top army post, described himself as the first chief of the general staff since 1941 to take command of the army “in the shadow of a land war in Europe involving a continental power.
“There is now a burning imperative to forge an Army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle,” he wrote.
“We are the generation that must prepare the Army to fight in Europe once again.”
Sir Sanders’ pronouncement comes as an expert in Russian foreign policy said military training exercises held near the Belarus-Ukraine border could indicate that the Russian ally might join the war.
“The concern is that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has been trying to put pressure on [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko and force him to take a more aggressive stance to launch more aggressive actions out of Belarus involving Belarusian troops,” said Mark Voyger, a senior fellow with the Transatlantic Defense and Security Program at the Center for European Analysis, according to Express.co.uk.
The military exercises that Belarus will be holding in June and July in the Gomel region are likely just a cover for an impending invasion, he said.
“These drills will cause serious concern because, unfortunately, Russia and its allies have consistently been using military drills as a mask to cover their aggressive actions,” Voyger told Express.co.uk.
Twice before, Russia said it would hold military exercises that later led to real attacks, including in 2014, when the country invaded the peninsula of Crimea, and last year, when more than 150,000 soldiers were placed on the Ukrainian border for “drills” that eventually led to the Feb. 24 invasion.
Voyger was a US army adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked on the former presidential campaign of US Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Lukashenko, Putin’s closest ally, warned last month of World War III if Western nations kept providing weapons to Ukraine.
While Belarus has not entered the war, Russian forces have used the country’s land as a launching spot for some of its attack on Ukraine.
“But in this case, Russia is suffering from shortages of soldiers, so any additional troops would add greatly to their potential, especially if they can strike again from the north, potentially using Belarusian troops,” Voyger said.