Russia's Allies Tread Lightly as Belarus Promises Troops for Ukraine Fight

As Russia faces a flurry of condemnation from the West for its attack on Ukraine, its friends and allies have predominantly taken a middle-of-the-ground approach in choosing to neither condemn nor endorse the invasion.

Claiming his country had "no other way," Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine and launched missiles at cities across the country early Thursday morning. Putin denied he wants to "occupy" Ukraine, but the violence is likely to escalate, potentially pitting Russia's allies against Western countries.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin-backed politician, denied his country's troops were taking part in the invasion, although Russian troops accessed Ukraine through Belarus. However, Lukashenko said Belarusian troops could be used in the military operation against Ukraine if Russia deems they are needed, according to Reuters.

Last week, Lukashenko said if rivals and opponents were to take "such stupid and mindless steps," Belarus will deploy current nuclear weapons and "up-and-coming ones" to "protect our territory."

Belarus is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance made up of seven former Soviet Union states. Created in 2002, the group's purpose is to create a collective defense of members that face external aggression. Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also members.

putin russia ukraine allies fight
Russia's allies have largely stayed quiet with regard to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Above, Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 21. ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed a declaration ahead of the Ukraine invasion cementing their alliance. Aliyev left Moscow hours before Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine, and has remained silent on the issue. Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have also been quiet.

China and Russia aren't formal allies but the two nations have been growing closer as their relationships with the United States became more strained. Beijing called for countries to respect the Minsk accords and resolve the issue diplomatically.

On Thursday, Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, reiterated that China is "closely monitoring" developments in Ukraine and called on "all sides to exercise restraint." Hua stopped short of calling Russia's attack on Ukraine an "invasion" and turned attention to the United States, accusing it of "increasing tensions and hyping up war for some time."

Russia and China have shared positions with regard to NATO's expansion into former Soviet republics, but China hasn't come out in firm support of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Cuba, a close ally of Russia, also hasn't outright backed Putin over Ukraine, but Cuban officials also haven't condemned the country's actions. Instead, they have taken a similar stance as China and tried to focus criticism on the United States.

Ahead of Thursday's invasion, Cuba's foreign ministry targeted the United States for "manipulating" the international community about the dangers of an imminent invasion of Ukraine. Both China and Cuba also called on the United States and NATO to address the "well-founded" concerns Russia had about the military alliance's expansion.

Western nations have tried to draw a hard line in opposition to Russia, announcing new sanctions to harm the country's economy on Thursday. However, Putin doesn't appear to be willing to back down and warned that opposing nations will face "consequences you have never seen."