Russia set to begin massive military drills with Belarus
During joint military exercises by Russian and Belarusian forces, the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system was used. This military exercise forms part of the second phase of testing the response forces of Belarus and the Union State of Russia.
TASS – Getty Images| TASS | Getty Images
Russia will begin military exercises on Thursday with Belarus, as tensions continue to mount over the large increase in troops at its Ukrainian border.
According to NATO, around 30,000 Russian soldiers are expected to be present in Belarus for the exercise.
Russia claims that the drills are designed to practice ways of repelling “external aggression.” They are often seen by Russia as an act of strength. This exercise comes at a time where 100,000 Russian troops are still located along Russia’s borders with Ukraine.
As a result of a diplomatic dispute over Ukraine, Russia denies that it plans to invade the country. Moscow sought assurances from the legal that Ukraine wouldn’t be allowed to join NATO, and demanded that eastern European military deployments of NATO be stopped.
Although those demands were rejected, Western officials indicated that they believe there might be an agreement in certain areas, like arms control. Meanwhile, talks between Russia, Europe, and the U.S. continue.
Joint military drills (also known as “Allied Resolve 2022”) are occurring at a crucial time in geopolitical relations.
These drills are scheduled to last until February 20th and will test Belarus’ and Russia’s readiness for “suppressing, repelling external aggression in a defensive operation as well as countering terrorist attacks and protecting the Union State’s interests.” Russia’s defense ministry says.
The “Union State” refers to a supranational organization consisting of Russia and Belarus and is aimed at deepening ties and integration between the two countries in a number of areas.
The number of troops participating in the exercises is not known. It was the “combat readiness phase”, which began in January. Thursday will mark the start of the “active phase”. Exercises will be held on Belarus’ southern and western borders, which are shared with Poland, the Baltic States of Lithuania and Latvia to the north and Ukraine to its south.
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus stated in open that these drills aim to train Russian and Belarusian troops for a potential military confrontation in Europe. He made this clear in light of NATO’s presence in Poland and Baltic States.
Ukraine is not part of NATO, but NATO members have provided military hardware to Ukraine with the ability to protect itself from Russian aggression.
A Russian S-400 defense system is seen at Brestsky Training Ground ahead of the Allied Resolve – 2022 joint naval exercise close to Brest (Belarus), February 03, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Mid-January saw Belarus’ President Lukashenko speak out. Although he is an ally, Putin sees him as the weak link in the relationship.
“Today, we recognize the necessity to hold full-scale exercise in the southern and western regions… in order to drill a plan of attack against the following: In the west [the Baltic states and Poland]The south [Ukraine],” Lukashenko said, according to Belarus’ state news agency Belta.
Stoltenberg stated that the deployment of troops and other military equipment “takes place under cover of an exercise but integrates very heavily the Russian and Belarusian forces.”
These are combat-ready, highly skilled troops and there’s no transparency about these deployments. This adds to our concern. This only adds tensions, and shows there’s no de-escalation. “It’s more troops, greater capabilities, and in more places.” he said during a press conference on Jan. 26.
Russia supported the deployment of troops at its Ukrainian border and has stated that it is entitled to place its troops anywhere it wants on its territory.
The West, it has claimed, has largely ignored security concerns when it refused to accept its demands regarding Ukraine and NATO. It also accused the West for creating “hysteria” over Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, stated Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not intend to attend drills in Belarus. However when asked about the size of drills, Peskov replied that “it was obvious that these were serious joint maneuvers”, as Russia and Belarus face more severe “threats”.
“Yes, it is possible to use the scope [of the drills]He said that although the size of the problem is greater than it was before, it’s far more difficult to solve.” according to Russian state news agency TASS.
“Both Russia, Belarus, are facing unimaginable threats. Their nature, possibly, concentration, are, unfortunately. far more substantial and much more dangerous now than they were before,” he said.
Today, the Belarus military drills are underway. A frenzy of diplomatic meetings takes place in Russia today and Europe tomorrow.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will meet with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Thursday. The meeting is intended to “make clear that Russia must cease its aggression and enter into meaningful discussions,” according to the British government.
Boris Johnson, the U.K. Prime Minster, is also traveling to Brussels, Warsaw, Poland, and Warsaw to ask international partners for solidarity with NATO allies.
The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be meeting his counterparts from Estonia and Latvia to discuss the possibility of long-term military deployments if Russian troops are not allowed to leave Belarus in the aftermath of these drills.
The Kremlin, for its part, stated Tuesday that Russian troops would leave Belarus following the exercises. However it didn’t specify when exactly.