Planned Amount of Russian Rail Cars to Belarus Increased by 8000% for 2017

Belarus’ geopolitical location, unsettled ideological stance between East and West, and growing public unrest is uncomfortably familiar to that of Ukraine in 2013 and 2014.  In 2017, Europe and Belarus should be concerned by the recently published Russian tenders for international rail travel between Russia and Belarus.

The data below showcases the aggregate of international rail traffic between Russia and its neighboring states.  Clearly, Belarus’ rail traffic has increased the greatest amount.  In 2016 Russia allotted for 50 rail cars of international travel between itself and Belarus.  However for 2017, the predicted rail traffic has jumped 20x times higher than in 2016 to 4,162 rail cars.

In 2017, something will happen in Belarus, but what?

The expected 4,162 rail cars going to Belarus far exceeds any previous rail car increases for military drills.  As noted below, in 2013, Russia’s ‘Zapad 2013’ (West 2013) military drills in Belarus only required 261 rail cars.  The Kremlin’s plans in Belarus appear to be larger than that of the massive Zapad 2013 military exercises which consisted of 12,000 Russian service members.

Looking ahead to the Zapad 2017 military exercises, President Lukashenko of Belarus has said that the Russian forces will “leave just the way they arrived.”  But this is extremely unlikely given the massive increase of expected rail traffic to Belarus.  The increased traffic could mean that Russia is:

  • Conducting the largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Overtly pressuring President Lukashenko to halt normalization with Europe
  • Countering the deployment of recent NATO troops to Poland and the Baltic States
  • Positioning Russian forces incase’ there is a coup against President Lukashenko like the one attempted in Montenegro

It is most likely that President Putin is falling into the same strategy that has plagued Russian leaders for centuries, security through expansion and authoritarian consolidation of power.  But due to Russia’s weakness in the 1990s and early 2000s, Russia has lost much of its territorial and political buffers previously enjoyed during the Soviet Union.  And as a way to hedge any further loses of territory in Eurasia, President Putin conducted political and hybrid warfare in Ukraine to hold off its pivot to the West.  And today it appears that President Putin is positioning himself to respond similarly to Belarus.

If President Lukashenko continues to defy President Putin or is unable to quell the growing domestic unrest in Belarus, Putin will not hesitate to assert his influence over Lukashenko in a planned coup, or sophisticated political/hybrid operation.

Russian Electronic Auction and Tender data:

(Translated tables)

2017:

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back 60
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Tajikistan and back 378
From the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic and back 250
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Kazakhstan and back 46
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) and back 131
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Belarus and the back 4162
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Abkhazia and back 138
From the Russian Federation to Mongolia and back 50
From the Russian Federation to the People’s Republic of China and back 50
Total: 5265

2016: pg. 1&2

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back 45
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Tajikistan and back 300
From the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic and back 240
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Kazakhstan and back 230
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) and back 20
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Belarus and the back 50
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Abkhazia and back 155
From the Russian Federation to Mongolia and back 45
From the Russian Federation to the People’s Republic of China and back 45
Total: 1130


2015
: pg. 1&2

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back 150
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Tajikistan and back 387
From the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic and back 58
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Kazakhstan and back 181
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) and back 30
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Belarus and the back 125
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Abkhazia and back 175
From the Russian Federation to Mongolia and back 50
From the Russian Federation to the People’s Republic of China and back 50
Total 1206


2014
: pg.1

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back 255
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Tajikistan and back 152
From the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic and back 100
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Kazakhstan and back 90
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) and back 20
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Belarus and the back 90
From the Russian Federation to the Republic of Abkhazia and back 200
From the Russian Federation to Ukraine and back 500
From the Russian Federation to Mongolia and back 50
From the Russian Federation to the People’s Republic of China and back 50
Total 1507

2013: pg. 1

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back (by way of The Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Belarus) 200
To Tajikistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan) 152
To Kyrgyzstan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan) 53
To the Republic of Kazakhstan (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan) 56
To the Republic of Moldova and back (by way of Ukraine) 20
To Turkmenistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) 7
To Uzbekistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Uzbekistan) 7
Total: 495

2012

Route to provide services for the transportation of military traffic forwarding # Rail Cars
To Kaliningrad and back (by way of The Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Belarus) 261
To Tajikistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan) 180
To Kyrgyzstan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan) 70
To the Republic of Kazakhstan (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan) 50
To the Republic of Moldova and back (by way of Ukraine) 10
To Turkmenistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) 6
To Uzbekistan and back (by way of The Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Uzbekistan) 8
Total: 585
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