NATO Creates Belt & Road Barrier On The EU’s Eastern Border

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NATO exercises right on the Polish border with Belarus and the strategic border city of Brest have resulted in Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko closing the Belarus borders with the EU, citing ‘security concerns’. This effectively seals off the country from the EU, with whom it also shares borders with Lithuania and Latvia. Lukashenko is under political pressure to resign his post following recent contested elections.

Brest is a significant gateway between the EU and Belarus, with an extensive customs, road and rail network responsible for handling huge volumes of cargo transiting between Belarus and the EU. Like neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus has a significant agriculture industry and is a major supplier to nearby Moscow as well as to Eastern Europe.

The NATO exercises include the Air Forces of the United States, France, Italy as well as the Baltic countries. Gaining influence over Belarus would be a military coup for the US as it cuts off another supply source for Moscow, whom it regards as a threat. The US is also a major supplier of arms to the EU.

The stand-off in part reflects the developing difficulties of extending China’s Belt & Road Initiative to the borders of the EU and for China to utilise investments in countries such as Belarus for hosting manufacturing plants to service Eastern Europe. The Chinese-owned Great Stone Industrial Park near Minsk is one example of investments that may run fallow should NATO assertiveness continue on EU borders with non-EU countries.

Russia to date has redeployed troops that were stationed near Brest to ensure there is no danger of an accidental incident with NATO that could spark a regional war. However, an unofficial militia arms build-up in Ukraine, the political uncertainty in Belarus and NATO posturing appear at deliberately destabilising the region, which saw fierce fighting in WWII.

Interfering with a bread market for Moscow and blocking routes for China’s supply chains to the EU illustrate the difficulties of globalisation when it comes to the United States protecting its own client states.

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Eurasia, including China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations, assisting foreign investors into the Eurasian region. Please contact Maria Kotova at russia@dezshira.com for Russian investment advisory or assistance with market intelligence, legal, tax and compliance issues throughout Asia.

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