On September 2nd, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense announced that from September 12-15 the country would hold war games, codenamed “Enduring Vitality”, which would coincide with the time of the West-2017 exercises held by the armed forces of Belarus and Russia. The former exercises’ official aim is improving troop management and staging defensive and combat operations. The unofficial goal, however, is preparing for an alleged invasion by the very Russian troops participating in the Russian-Belorussian West-2017 exercises in Belarus.
The West-2017 war games are set to be held from September 14-20. As earlier announced by the Ministry of Defense of Belarus, the exercises will involve up to 12,700 troops, 3,000 of which are from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Overall, 680 military vehicles will be involved in the training exercises which have been planned and are being held as part of the Russian-Belorussian alliance. To recall, Russia and Belarus together make up the Union State, both adhere to the Collective Security Treaty, and the two countries jointly handle the defense of Belarus’ western border.
The West-2017 exercises have since the very beginning of their planning drawn attention from the West. Over the past few months, EU and NATO diplomatic circles and media have actively claimed that the activity of Russian Army units in Belarus poses a threat to neighboring countries, primarily Poland and Ukraine. This line has also been taken up by the pro-Western Belorussian opposition. The Belorussian opposition, whose headquarters are located in Lithuania and Poland, has since the beginning demanded that international observers be allowed at the war games, the argument being that these exercises threaten Belarus’ national sovereignty. They have additionally claimed that the officially announced size of the Russian troop contingent is lower than in reality, and that these Russian troops will remain on the territory of the Republic of Belarus after the exercises. A deliberately injected psychosis has indeed affected certain strata of Belorussian society. Almost in sync, the Belorussian opposition’s demand that foreign observers be allowed at the exercises was echoed by NATO Secretary General Stoltenburg.
Ukraine has only relatively recently taken interest in these exercises, which is somewhat of an indirect confirmation of the fact these exercises do not pose a threat to Ukraine, but are merely being used as an element of information war against Russia. Western propagandists should be granted merit for the fact that they have indeed managed to create a problem out of nothing. Many in the West and even in Belarus have been convinced that Russia harbors some kind of aggressive plans in which Belarus is condemned to playing the role of a springboard for military aggression.
Why is this picture being painted? The answer is obvious: NATO, the US, and certain countries of “New Europe” (Poland and the Baltic border states) have for years alleged that Russia poses a military threat to them. With proper media circulation, such exercises present an illustrative chance to “prove” the correctness of these allegations. All the while, of course, the fact is omitted that NATO war games are being constantly held in the Baltic states and Poland and NATO is building up its military infrastructure and increasing its military presence in the region. Four new battalions numbering around 1,000 each have been deployed in Poland and the three Baltic states. The same can be said in regards to Ukraine, where the country’s occupation by NATO has only just begun with the US’ building of a naval base in Ochakov and American and NATO instructors regularly training Ukrainian troops at various polygons.
Moscow and Minsk have repeatedly stated that the West-2017 exercises pose no threat to any neighboring countries. Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Defense, Oleg Belokonev, has expressed his surprise at the fact that Western countries have treated routine military training exercises in such a way. Belokonev has drawn attention to the fact that whenever NATO countries hold large-scale maneuvers, such as Anaconda in 2016, then there is no fuss to be heard. And 24 countries participated in the latter! These maneuvers, which took place in Poland, involved two times more soldiers than the impending Russian-Belorussian exercises.
On August 23rd, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, sent an official invitation to Ukraine and six NATO countries to send their observers to the exercises. Ukraine has already agreed and sent two observers. On the other hand, Russia and Belarus have not been invited to joint Ukraine-NATO exercises, such as the Sea Breeze or Shirokiy Lan war games. What’s more, no Russian or Belorussian observers are to be found at NATO exercises in none other than those NATO countries bordering Belarus, i.e., Poland and the Baltics.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces’ exercises, in my opinion, should be seen as a propaganda move. The goal of these war games is demonstrating exaggerated concern over the presence of Russian troops in planned war games in Belarus. No one in Kiev, Brussels, or Washington actually expects Russian troops to invade Ukraine. On the contrary, Russia and Belarus have every reason to be concerned by the NATO tanks amassing at their borders.
NATO propagandists are rather cunningly working on a number of countries’ public opinions’ to insinuate some kind of threat supposedly posed by these Russian-Belorussian exercises to European countries. Meanwhile, it is hard not to believe that the pro-Western Belorussian opposition is coordinating with NATO’s plans. For example, the online opposition journal, “Belorussian Partisan”, only a few days ago published anti-Russian leaflets which were pasted up around the city of Brest. In our opinion, these leaflets and their printing was prepared by the same people, and they are not necessarily Belorussian.
Judging by all the signs at hand, more provocations against the exercises in Belarus are still to come.
Originally published on fort-russ.com