Moscow: A Russian politician and former army officer said that Wagner group’s repositioning to Belarus puts Russia in a position to quickly strike NATO targets near Poland and Lithuania. Andrey Kartapolov told Russian state television that the private military company could strike the border region of Poland and Lithuania in “a matter of hours” from its new location.
The mercenary group is reported to be in Belarus after a failed uprising by its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin last month. Following the brief mutiny against Russian president Vladimir Putin, a deal was brokered between the two sides owing to which Yevgeny Prigozhin agreed to exile in Belarus where Wagner fighters had begun joining him, it was reported.
Belarus sits at a strategically important crossroads of Europe — bordering NATO countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in addition to Ukraine.
“Should anything happen, we need this Suwalki Corridor very much,” Kartapolov said during his TV appearance, adding, “a strike force [based in Wagner forces in Belarus] is ready to take this corridor in a matter of hours”.
Rebekah Koffler, former DIA intelligence officer, told Fox News that the move could be part of Vladimir Putin’s plan to open up another front in the Ukraine war.
“The repositioning of the Wagner Group was part of Putin’s plan to open the second front in Belarus, which is now in possession of tactical nuclear weapons. Putin — under the guise of the so-called ‘Prigozhin coup’ — placed Wagner, his best fighting force, in a much more threatening position: within striking distance of both Kyiv, Ukraine and NATO’s border — Latvia, Lithuania,” Rebekah Koffler said.
“Russia’s General Staff that does long-term forecasting, assessed a decade ago that a direct war between Russia and the US/NATO is ‘inevitable’. Moscow is interpreting every US and NATO move within that prism. Whatever Biden’s rationale is for this recent deployment, to Putin it means the US is ready to jump in the fight,” Koffler continued.
“Putin will not wait for the US to strike first. If Russian intelligence assesses that US/NATO forces are about to join the fight, Putin will likely do what Kartapolov warns about,” he warned.