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Blog by Karl Altau

Statement About the Zapad 2017 exercise

September 14, 2017

Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and other partner organizations are closely following all news stories from various media around the world concerning the Russia's military training "Zapad 2017" in Belarus, cince it's happening close to borderline with the Baltic states. 

 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Here's a statement of the Belarusan-American Association (BAZA) on upcoming military exercises “Zapad-2017”:

"From September 14-20, Belarus and Russia will conduct joint military exercises known as “Zapad-2017.” They will be held in the western areas of Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave which is in the immediate proximity of NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. These exercises pose a serious challenge to the security situation in Eastern Europe an...d they constitute an existential threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belarus.

The decades-long pro-Russian policy of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has resulted in Belarus’ complete dependence on the will of Kremlin, aided by Belarus’ weak unreformed economy, unbalanced foreign policy, and heavily suppressed society. Deep political and military ties with Russia have become especially precarious for Belarus since the Kremlin engaged in direct acts of aggression against its neighbors - Georgia in 2008 and, more recently, Ukraine where Russia has annexed Crimea and instigated prolonged armed conflict in Donbas.

Conducting such large-scale military exercises with an aggressive Russia as well as maintaining close military cooperation with Moscow places Belarus on the wrong side of history. Zapad-2017 will be a destabilizing factor for international security, providing a platform for Russia to challenge Belarus’ neighbors, members of the NATO alliance, that Russia considers a threat to its interests.

Due to the flawed, short-sighted policies of the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, the nation now has a severely limited space to maneuver in foreign policy and is bound to allow a large contingent of the armed forces of a belligerent, openly aggressive Russia to enter its territory and pursue Kremlin goals that directly contradict the national interests of Belarus.

Moreover, the recent illegal and treacherous annexation of Crimea as well as the instigation of an armed conflict in Ukrainian Donbas leaves no doubt that Russia does not respect international norms, wants to control the destiny of its neighbors and disregards the value of life in the affected countries and of its own citizens. Hosting Russian armed forces in this way raises concerns about threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belarus.

We call on the United States, European Union, NATO and the United Nations Security Council to stay vigilant and to insist and verify that Russia conducts the Zapad-2017 exercises in accordance with relevant international norms and leaves the territory of Belarus immediately following the end of the maneuvers."

Photo credit: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

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