Concern Over Russian-Belarus Military Exercise Zapal 2017 Makes No Sense – OpEd

The Zapad 2017 Russian-Belarus Military Exercise is scheduled to take place in September.

Military exercises are always an object of increased attention. First of all because any country whose neighbors conduct military exercises will always – if they have a responsible military staff – have to analyze the military potentials and potential risks associated with their neighbor’s defensive capabilities. This is absolutely clear.

But pure analysis has nothing in common with panic in the Baltic States and Poland over the planned Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 military exercise. Speculations only aggravate the situation and could weaken confidence between NATO, EU on one hand and Russia and Belarus on the other.

It is said that the number of troops participating in the military exercise will not exceed the parameters specified by the 2011 Vienna Document – 13,000 personnel at most —  said Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov. Не noted that during the joint strategic exercise in Belarus, the Russian Federation will be represented by about 3,000 military personnel and about 280 vehicles.

Apart from ground forces the exercise will involve air force units, including up to 25 aircraft and helicopters from the Russian side.

“Everything has been planned,” assured Andrei Ravkov. He also underlined that “the head of Belarus emphasized that the exercise is a way to train the regional military force, which guarantees the defense of the territory of the Union State [of Belarus and Russia] in the western direction”. He also claimed that this is why the exercise will be built around a defensive concept. The exercise will check the readiness of the regional military force to fulfill Union State defense missions.

Zapad 2017 is planned to be transparent and will be conducted in accordance with the international law. The Western partners will have the opportunity to observe the event. And if it is transparent – why to speculate? It is much more fruitful to cooperate and to respect the right of neighbor country to develop its defensive capabilities.


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