Russian media reports say Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a law on the ratification of the protocol to the agreement with Russia on the regional grouping of troops, or regional group of forces (RGF).

The document that was inked by the countries’ defense ministers, Viktor Khrenin of Belarus and Sergey Shoigu of Russia was posted on the national web portal of legal information today.  

The document is reportedly geared to adjust the legal framework for bilateral cooperation in the military sphere.  It specifies the procedure of planning and financial measures to ensure the operation of the regional group of forces.

The protocol will come into force on the day when the last written notification of the implementation of relevant domestic procedures in both states is received via diplomatic channels.

Recall, the new military doctrine of the Union State of Belarus and Russia was approved on November 4, 2021, 22 years after the Union State was created. The doctrine pays special attention to actions to be taken during a period of perceived increased military threat.  These actions include pursuing agreed security and foreign policy, regular joint exercises, deepened defense industry cooperation, coordination of armament procurement and a binational Regional Group of Forces (RGF); in 1999 the Treaty on the Union State referred to it as a 'regional grouping of troops' (the media use both names). Other actions include infrastructure development and the establishment of an RGF joint command. The doctrine further addresses hybrid threats, including information warfare and cyber.  Soon after its adoption, Russia launched its open invasion of Ukraine.

In October 2022, Lukashenko announced that the RGF would be formed on Belarusian territory, owing to an alleged 'threat' to the borders of the Union State.  Analysts found it possible that, by pointing to a 'threat' to Belarus' external borders, Lukashenko was trying to argue against direct involvement of the Belarusian armed forces in Ukraine. 

December 2022 was marked by many high-level bilateral meetings.  On December 3, the Russian and Belarusian ministers of defense signed a protocol amending the 1997 agreement on the joint provision of regional security in the military sphere.  On December 19, Putin and Lukashenko held a meeting in Minsk where they agreed that Belarus and Russia would create a 'common defense space'.  Experts expect that such a space will translate into even closer joint defense activities and planning, with a permanent Russian military presence in Belarus.