Combat Brotherhood, a large-scale military exercise of the CSTO countries, has kicked off in Russia’s Rostov region.
About 12,000 troops from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are involved in the maneuvers. According to the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the CSTO is preparing for a peacekeeping mission in Syria.
The exercise involved troops from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
As part of Combat Brotherhood-2017, the CSTO troops will fulfil combat missions in the south of Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The drills will include not only offensive and defensive operations, but the organization of peacekeeping missions as well. The purpose of its second stage which will be held in Kazakhstan is ‘preparing and carrying out a peacekeeping operation by the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces in a state which is not a member of the Organization’.
“Thus, we can assume that it may be Syria, or Ukraine, or any other country where the CSTO member states have common interests,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta says.
The mountainous terrain of Kazakhstan gives grounds to assert that the CSTO peacekeepers might be trained to take part in an operation in Syria.
Earlier, the Belarusian Defense Ministry reported that about fifty soldiers from were involved in the war game in southern Russia at that moment. But it is still unknown how many Belarusian servicemen will participate in the next stages of the exercise.
Sending Belarusian peacekeepers to Syria is not ruled out, military expert Alyaksandr Alesin believes.
“It is quite possible, because neither Russia nor Assad will not accept soldiers from any other country. In Moscow’s opinion, Lukashenka owes Putin – he did not support him in Syria, did not send its pilots, did not behave as an ally. On the other hand, a peacekeeping mission is an opportunity to show off on the international stage de-facto not taking part in hostilities – and Lukashenka, as we have seen, usually jumps at every opportunity to do so,” the expert told belsat.eu.
In his view, Belarusian peacekeeping forces will not be sizable, they may be limited to one company. “But maintaining this company might cost Belarus a pretty penny,” he stressed.
In accordance with the country’s law, the Belarusian troops may not be compelled to participate in overseas operations, Alesin said.
“Only contractors may be sent – on a purely voluntary basis. Each soldier must lodge an application to Lukashenka: “I am asking your permission to take part …”. Sending soldiers abroad is an exceptional case, this can be authorized only by the president.”
In June, Russia asked CIS countries, including Belarus, whether theu would agree to send troops to Syria for joint monitoring in the areas of de-escalation. But then the case was the contingent of observers, not troops.
Іhar Ilyash, belsat.eu