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Russia has been conducting the largest military exercises in Europe for 40 years

NSHe is zapad (“west”) The 1981 military exercise was the largest and most spectacular exercise ever performed by the Soviet Union. Soviet Union The Warsaw Agreement, an alliance of satellite states. Cold War nostalgic people may be pleased to know that this year’s iterations, which began on September 10, could be even greater. Zapad-21 has the potential to involve up to 200,000 troops from Russia, Belarus, and several other countries, if the Russian Defense Ministry believes, surpassing a very large number. .. NATO Recent exercises. This reflects both the coldness of Russia’s relations with the West and the strengthening of relations with Belarus.

It’s not entirely clear if the Zapad-21 actually matches the 1981 scene. In part, it is because Russia is sandwiched between reducing the scale of its exercises for diplomatic reasons and decorating them in awe of their enemies. The Vienna document, a confidence-building measure agreed between Russia and the West in 1990, states that exercises by more than 13,000 troops must be reported and made public to foreign observers. In recent years, Russia simply claims that what looks like a giant drill is actually a series of separate small drills and is therefore exempt.

The same Chicany is used for Zapad-21. Belarus says it will house an army of 12,800 people, conveniently below the threshold. Russia says less than 6,400 people will train in Russian soil. With the same breath, it repeated the figures for an army of 200,000. The United States has asked Russia to explain the “clear discrepancy,” a State Department spokesman said. The true figure is probably somewhere in the middle, but close to the top. “Russian military leaders are likely to want the Western media to report exaggerated numbers,” said Russian military expert Michael Kofman. CNA, Think tank, “Helps verify the scale and success of the exercise.” Exercises officially run from September 10th to 16th, but troops and equipment have been flooding the exercise area for several months. It could almost certainly lag behind, as in the spring after a large army buildup around Ukraine.

But it’s not just the size of the Zapad-21 that worries the West. The exercise spans Russia and Belarus, with thousands of Russian troops in the latter (see map). And just as Zapad-81 broke out during the political crisis in Poland, where protests against the Communist government at the time were rising, today’s background is confusing. After losing the election in August 2020, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko cracked down on protests and steadily approached the Kremlin. On September 9, in Moscow, Lukashenko will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the sixth time in the past year, ready to “make military, political or economic integration even closer”. I declared that I was there. Putin said Russia’s lending to Belarus from September to the end of 2022 would exceed $ 600 million.

Zapad-21 reflects this bonomy. The premise is that the western invaders, the fictional states Njaris (mainly Lithuania), Pomorie and the Polar Republic (both Poland), have “illegal armed groups, separatists and international terrorist organizations” in Belarus. Incite and eventually invade. Russia and Belarus launch a bold counterattack to liberate the country. All of this reflects Russia’s long-standing fear of a Western-backed “color revolution” in former Soviet territory. The Belarusian turmoil brings a modern resonance to war games.

The early signs of the exercise are that Russian troops are far west of the past Zapad exercises and therefore closer to the Belarus-Polish border, Kofman said. Some operations take place around Brest, just above its border, and just 200 km from Warsaw. When the exercises began, Russia also sent an air defense system to Grodno, which established a joint air defense center with Belarus in the spring. Grodno is close to where Belarus, Poland and Lithuania meet. This Zapad will also be the first to include a Belarusian reserve army.

All of this makes Poland uneasy. On September 6, Polish Prime Minister Mateus Moraviecki explained why the government wanted to extend the state of emergency declared at the border with Belarus last week. This was primarily in response to the surge in refugees that Belarus urged to put pressure on Poland and other neighboring countries, but Morawicki suggested that oncoming training also played a role.

The fact that Zapad-21 should provoke such a response may please the Kremlin. Russia’s military spending is small compared to the United States and far behind China (see graph), but Russia’s military has undergone dramatic changes over the last 15 years. They are slimmer, more agile and more deadly, with years of combat experience in Ukraine and Syria, from irregular, resource-hungry post-Soviet costumes that did not work well in the 2008 war with Georgia. It became an organization. The point of an exercise like Zapad is not only to prepare for Russia’s large-scale war and to refine its ability to carry it out with Belarus, but also to show its progress to the enemy. Zapad-21 includes traditional land, air, and navy attacks far north of the Arctic Circle, as well as Uran-9 ground combat robots and the largest electronic warfare training ever.

This exercise is also an opportunity for military diplomacy, emphasizing that Russia may be a western Paria, but that it has friends elsewhere. Hundreds of troops from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka participate, some renting Russian tanks. China has not participated, but last month it conducted a large-scale training with Russia in the northwestern part of the Ningxia Autonomous Region.

Belarus has become all best friends. Lukashenko was once wary of allowing Russia to overwhelm his country, but had to rely on Russia’s help to quell the democratic movement. In the past, it was Belarus that showed its position as a solid guardian of the western side of Russia. Now, Anna Maria Diner of the Polish Institute for International Affairs said, “It is rather Russia that is trying to protect Belarus … with an emphasis on who protects who is different from 2017. It was held in the last year of Zapad.

Lukashenko’s anxiety was beneficial to Putin, but it could be a responsibility. Russia is keen on muscle flexion but does not want to be involved in conflict. “For the first time, there is a real risk of an unintended armed incident at the Belarusian border,” warns Artyom Shraibman of the think tank Carnegie Moscow Center. Mutual provocation, and a tendency to interpret each other’s actions in the most hostile light possible. Lukashenko is so cramped and so angry with his European neighbors that it’s not hard to imagine an accidental relapse. ■■

Russia has been conducting the largest military exercises in Europe for 40 years

Source link Russia has been conducting the largest military exercises in Europe for 40 years

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