ISSN 2330-717X

Belarus Can’t Raise Or Sustain 500,000-Man Army: It Would Bankrupt Country – OpEd


For many years, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that “in the event of war,” Belarus could raise and support a 500,000-man military; but the realities are, Andrey Porotnikov says, that it could not field support one half that large, without the risk of driving the country into bankruptcy.

Porotnikov, a commentary for Svobodnye novosti plyus, draws that conclusion on the basis of an examination of what West Germany faced and might have been able to do during the Cold War to conclude that Belarus’ fielding a 500,000-man force is in the realm of “science fiction” (

West German military planners at that time assumed that “war could begin suddenly” and that there would not be time to call new soldiers to the colors or build up armaments. Moreover, they recognized that their country did not have significant “strategic depth.” That means that all military factories and transit routes would immediately come under enemy fire.

Thus, the West Germans assumed, they would have to fight with the soldiers and weapons they had before any conflict broke out. Just how large the West German armaments were is suggested by the fact that they helped arm Poland, Sweden, Turkey and “now Ukraine” since 1991.

They also assumed that the West German army could not number more than 1.2 million men, that is “a little more than two percent of the population.”   There wouldn’t be sufficient time to raise a larger force, and the country, despite its wealth, could not hope to support a larger one, Porotnikov says.

Despite those calculations, he continues, Minsk has assumed that it can put “more than five percent of the population” in uniform. That is nonsense for ‘besides the risk of military defeat the country would encounter not less and if you like even more real risks of bankruptcy in trying to assemble and feel a half-million strong army.”

Moreover, Russian military calculations suggest, Minsk would have no chances to increase the size of its military by a factor of ten in the event of a crisis. The best the Russians calculate they can do is boost the number in uniform by 2.5 times. Belarus might manage that, but then it would have an army of approximately 200,000, not half a million.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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