Moscow and Minsk begin military maneuver with 200,000 soldiers: experts foresee large-scale conflict | International

The joint strategic maneuvers of Russia and Belarus “West 2021” They begin on September 10 and will be held in four military training areas.

In total they will participate up to 200,000 soldiers, but in the first phase of the maneuvers there will only be 12,800 soldiers, among them, 2,500 Russians and 50 Kazakhs.

On Belarus and Russia Until now there have been military exercises of the Collective Rapid Response Forces of the countries that belong to the Alliance Organization of the Treaty on Collective Security.

The last strategic military maneuvers under the name “West” were carried out in 2017.

This time the second phase of these exercises on Russian soil will also be joined by military personnel from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Serbia, and Sri Lanka.

For its part, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan and Uzbekistan they send observers.

“A gigantic Russian military spectacle”

This time, what is striking is the unprecedented magnitude of the maneuvers, he says Siarhei Bohdan, from the Free University of Berlin.

“The maneuvers, previously influenced by Minsk, now become the stage for a gigantic Russian military spectacle ”, said.

At the same time, Bohdan assures that the participation of the Kazakh military represents an achievement for Minsk. “I think that due to its severe political isolation, Belarus wanted more participation from Kazakhstan and other countries.”

Denis Melianzov, from the expert platform Minsk Dialogue, explained that the first part of the maneuvers usually aims to defend the State of the Union of Russia and Belarus.

But this time it is anticipated that there will be fewer staff and less equipment than four years ago.

In the second phase, Moscow wants to show that “it has enough allies and can form a coalition against the West,” he said.

The military expert Vasily Kashin, is convinced that current military exercises are also conducted to check the operability of the entire leadership system of the Russian Armed Forces in the event of a large-scale conflict.

“If the relationships between Russia and the West were more constructive, the maneuvers would be different, with many observers, ”Kashin explained.

Military maneuver reflecting the situation in the region

The maneuvers “West 2021” are based on a scenario of crisis and conflict, linked to “a growing activity of illegal armed groups and separatist and international terrorist organizations with external support”, according to Siarhei Bohdan.

That is a scenario that has already been exercised in previous joint maneuvers, he indicates.

Vasily Kashin also thinks that military exercises are developed in preparation against terrorist attacks.

But the data of “External support” it would be indicating the serious disagreements between Russia and the West.

“Russia and the West accuse each other of subversive activities. That is why this argument reflects the poor state of relations between Moscow and the countries of the OTAN ”, stressed.

Reaction of neighboring countries and consequences for the region

During maneuvers “Occidente 2017”, European observers feared that part of the Russian troops might stay in Belarus.

The reason was, according to Denis Melianzov, the tense relations between Russia and Ukraine. Some say that something like this could happen this year too.

The warnings go as far as the accusation that Moscow and Minsk would carry out a hybrid war against the European Union, a combination of classic military operations, cyberattacks and propaganda.

That, on the other hand, says Melianzov, has to do with the isolation of Belarus and the sanctions of the West, imposed after the repression of mass protests by the government of Alexander Lukashenko, last year.

Another reason would be the refugee crisis caused by Belarus on the borders with Lithuania and Poland.

On the reaction of neighboring countries to the “West 2021” maneuvers, Siarhei Bohdan says the maneuver will be carried out “Join Efforts 2021” in all areas of military exercises of the Ukrainian Army.

This, in addition to Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov, with the participation of military personnel from a dozen NATO countries and alliance partners.

“Both parties are expanding their maneuvers, reinforcing its components for an offensive and even provoking each other ”, he maintains.

The expert has an “advanced militarization in the region, with consequences for the security and stability of the entire continent and the world.”

Similarities to the Cold War routine

Four years ago, Minsk was still openly opposed to Moscow by maneuvering far from the borders and demanding greater transparency, where possible with the presence of numerous observers, Melianzov recalls.

At the same time, Bohdan clarifies, the West has accused Belarus in recent years of exacerbating the situation and participating in a kind of Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Despite all the problems, Kashin believes, the situation should not be overly dramatized.

“Before the meeting between Biden and Putin, in June in Geneva, there was a phase of extremely dangerous tensions over Ukraine, ”he said.

“There were troop concentrations, large military exercises and an unpleasant tone. The summit did not change anything in the background, but it brought some tranquility ”, highlights.

In his opinion, the parties, with their current maneuvers, which take place almost at the same time, are ready to defend their own interests.

Anyway, nobody wants to go too far. “This already resembles the routine of the Cold War,” the expert concluded.

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