Zapad-2017 military game in the offing: Should Belarusians be wary?

Russia-Belarus joint military exercises are usually held every two years. But this time, in the run-up of Zapad-2017 war game, democratic circles are expressing deep concern about it.

“These exercises are a real danger both to us and our neighbors – maybe, even to the Russian people due to the unpredictability of Russia’s foreign policy. Russia, or to be more exact, the Russian elite, solves their internal problems through external conflicts,” politician Mikalai Statkevich says.

The annexation of Crimea and the long conflict in eastern Ukraine give much food for thought.

Minsk residents:

“Ukraine was attacked, but it will stand. Our country is much smaller and much weaker. It is unlikely to preserve its existence.”

“We are an independent country, we can take our own foreign policy decisions. We do not need these exercises.”

“I think some [military] operation is being carried out under the guise of the war game.”

“I think they will find some better territory. They will not make dough in Belarus”.

According to experts, there is every likelihood that some provocations will be staged.

Zapad-2017 will be held against the background of NATO reinforcement in the territories of Belarus’ western neighbors who are keeping an eye on sabre-rattling in the east. Unfortunately, they failed to give an adequate response to the war in Georgia in 2008 and the 2014 conflict in Ukraine.

“In my opinion, at the moment Putin wants to do some harm to Belarus – with or without Lukashenka. And I fear that he will go to any lengths. I believe that he is nurturing a plan of abolishing the Belarusian independence and in general – the annexation of the country,” Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili says.

“At the same time with Zapad-2017, Russia will be staging the exercise also called Zapad which is much more ambitious, which has a much more aggressive scenario. Therefore, there might be a situation whan foreign observers forget about the war game in Belarus, about what is happening in the territory of Belarus,” military expert Andrey Parotnikau warns.

Three divisions of Russian troops will accompany the military exercise in Belarus. Their primary function is offensive. They will remain on the western borders of Russia, but there is no accurate information on their future actions, because their size is almost twice the strength of the forces directly involved in the game.

Therefore, Zapad-2017 may become the backdrop for the rehearsal of an offensive operation, not a defensive one. The exercise will be held on six Belarusian training grounds on September, 14-20. International observers are reported to have been invited to the event.

Syarhei Padsasonny/MS, phot. Sergei Bobylev / TASS / Forum

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