On Friday, September 10, the strategic exercises Zapad-2021 will start. The maneuvers will take place at 14 training grounds on the territory of Russia, Belarus and the Baltic Sea, and about 200 thousand military personnel, more than 80 aircraft and helicopters, and about 760 units of military equipment will take part in them. The exercises will also involve military personnel from the CSTO member countries, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and a number of other states. As Vladimir Putin noted, such maneuvers are logical in conditions when other associations, including NATO, are increasing their military presence near the borders of the Union State and the CSTO space. According to analysts, Zapad-2021 will become an important element of the combat training of the Allied armed forces.
On Friday, September 10, the joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises “West-2021” will start. The official opening ceremony of the maneuvers took place yesterday at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The welcoming speech on behalf of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu was voiced by his deputy Nikolai Pankov.
“An event of this scale is unique in many ways. Its scope, the composition of the participating states, the number of personnel and equipment involved testify to the increased importance of the joint training of our armed forces, ”Pankov said.
According to him, such international maneuvers help to develop a common understanding in the training of troops, strengthen friendship and erase language barriers between servicemen, form new joint traditions of military brotherhood and military comradeship.
The deputy minister also stressed that the West-2021 exercises are “purely defensive in nature” and are aimed at training troops in conducting hostilities in modern conditions and increasing the interoperability of the military command and control bodies of the armed forces of allies and friendly states.
- Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces General of the Army Valery Gerasimov checks the readiness of the troops for the West-2021 exercises
- © Ministry of Defense of Russia
In turn, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus, Major General Viktor Gulevich, opening maneuvers at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in the Brest region, stressed that the exercises do not pose a threat to Europe, but are designed to demonstrate the futility of talking from a position of strength with Belarus, Russia and other members CSTO.
“I am convinced that the exercises will demonstrate the high readiness of the armies of our countries for joint actions to ensure the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Union State. This will become a kind of signal for the collective West about the futility of talking from a position of strength with the peoples of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, ”he said.
Vladimir Putin also pointed out this during a press conference after talks with Alexander Lukashenko: “The exercises are not directed against anyone. But their implementation is logical in conditions when other associations, NATO, for example, are actively building up their military presence near the borders of the Union State and the CSTO space. “
Maneuvers “West-2021” will be led by the chiefs of the Russian and Belarusian General Staffs – Valery Gerasimov and Viktor Gulevich. The practical part of the exercise will take place from 10 to 16 September at nine training grounds in Russia and in the Baltic Sea, as well as at five sites in Belarus.
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In addition to Russians and Belarusians, military men from the CSTO member states, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and a number of other states will also take part in the maneuvers. So, on September 7, about 500 servicemen from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka arrived in Russia.
More than 100 foreign military observers are reported to have been invited to the exercise.
“Managing a large number of military personnel”
Russia and Belarus agreed on the regular holding of joint exercises “West” in 2009. At the same time, the first such maneuvers took place. They were attended by about 12.5 thousand military personnel, up to 40 aircraft and about 200 units of military equipment. In 2011, the Union Shield maneuvers took place.
The next West exercise took place in 2013. According to the Ministry of Defense, about 12 thousand servicemen, as well as 180 pieces of military equipment, of which ten tanks, about 40 aircraft and up to ten ships of the Baltic Fleet, were involved at the training grounds of both countries at that time.
- During the operational-strategic exercises “West-2009” at the training range of the Baltic Fleet Khmelevka in the Kaliningrad region
- RIA News
- © Igor Zarembo
In 2017, the Zapad exercise became larger. They attracted about 12.7 thousand military personnel, 70 aircraft and helicopters, up to 680 units of military equipment, including about 250 tanks, up to 200 guns, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, as well as ten ships.
According to experts, the launched maneuvers will be the largest among the Zapad exercises. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, a total of about 200,000 servicemen will take part in them. In addition, the exercises will involve more than 80 aircraft and helicopters, up to 760 units of military equipment, including over 290 tanks, more than 240 guns, MLRS and mortar complexes, as well as up to 15 ships.
“Of these, 12,800 people were involved in the exercise on the territory of the Republic of Belarus, including up to 2,500 Russian military personnel, more than 30 aircraft and helicopters, up to 350 units of military equipment, including about 140 tanks, up to 110 guns, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, ”the Defense Ministry said.
According to analysts, such an increase in the number of personnel involved is not accidental.
“The Russian army is now improving the automated command and control system, which involves the control of a large number of servicemen, military equipment and weapons. In this regard, the number of personnel involved is growing, “military expert Alexei Leonkov told RT.
“Element of information war”
It is worth noting that in Europe and the United States, many media outlets, NGOs and politicians are expressing concern about the West 2021 exercise.
Poland is the most active in this regard. Thus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the beginning of the week that Warsaw is afraid of provocations against the backdrop of the West 2021 exercises. And the head of the National Security Bureau of Poland, Pavel Solokh, expressed the opinion that hybrid actions allegedly appear in the scenario of the Russian-Belarusian maneuvers.
“Both the Polish services and the services of the allied countries have long had information that the scenario of these exercises implies the destabilization of the situation on our eastern border, and we have already faced this to some extent,” he said.
The Polish media write about the exercises in a similar way. In a number of publications, journalists are trying to hint that these maneuvers have some hidden goals. Thus, the Polish portal TVP1 published a material in which it is argued that Moscow, through the exercises, allegedly seeks to create a sense of threat in the countries of Central Europe and discourage NATO from taking an active part in the eastern flank of the alliance. At the same time, the teachings themselves are called “aggressive”.
- Tanks T-72B3 at the training ground in the Minsk region during the joint strategic exercises of Belarus and Russia “West-2017”
- RIA News
- © Evgeny Biyatov
And the Polish Radio Maryja writes that in connection with the exercises, special attention should be paid to the Suwalki corridor – part of the border that connects Poland with the Baltic countries and at the same time separates Belarus from the Kaliningrad region. The portal calls this place “one of the hottest spots in Europe”, without explaining how the Russian-Belarusian teachings are related to it.
In turn, the American think tank at NATO “Atlantic Council” * in July published a material in which he pointed out the increase in the military presence of the Russian Federation in Belarus and warned that, due to the exercises, September could be a difficult month for the North Atlantic Alliance, the western neighbors of Belarus and Ukraine.
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) has posted material on its website claiming that the teachings are not transparent enough. In addition, the authors of the text call on NATO to be more assertive and active in conducting its military exercises, while worrying less about the fears of the Russian Federation.
According to analysts, the rhetoric of Western countries in this matter is based on the principle of double standards, since the military activity of the alliance has recently greatly increased. This year alone, Defender Europe 2021, the largest exercise in 25 years, was held, and the United States organized the Large Scale Exercise 2021 naval maneuvers, which were declared the largest in 40 years.
At the same time, the Russian Federation and Belarus conduct exercises exclusively on their territory, and NATO exercises are often held near the borders of Russia – in Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic States.
“Such rhetoric is a standard element of an information war against Minsk and Moscow on the part of Western countries,” Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University, said in an interview with RT.
Alexey Leonkov adheres to a similar point of view: “This is done for the purpose of propaganda and support of anti-Russian and Russophobic hysteria. At the same time, Russia conducts open exercises with a neutral theme, invites observers and the media from any country. This is not the case in NATO. “
According to Alexei Leonkov, the Zapad-2021 exercise is an important component of the training of the Armed Forces of Russia and Belarus.
“The strategic exercises“ West-2021 ”are a great result of the recent combat training of the RF Armed Forces. According to the plan, the possible options for repelling the attack of the conditional enemy should be worked out. These are defensive exercises that play an important role in the training system of the military of the two countries, ”the analyst said.
At the same time, Vladimir Shapovalov emphasized that Russia and Belarus are allies through the CSTO and the Union State, so the holding of joint exercises should not surprise anyone.
“Such military contacts are not something out of the ordinary. This is part of the extensive military-strategic cooperation that has existed between the countries for many years, ”the expert said.
The analyst also added that in the face of sanctions pressure from the West, as well as an increase in NATO’s military activity, such exercises should demonstrate the readiness of Moscow and Minsk to jointly repulse hostile actions.
“At present, the level of aggression against Belarus on the part of its western neighbors, members of NATO, has significantly increased. In these conditions, the Russian-Belarusian exercises should clearly demonstrate to the Western countries that Minsk and Moscow are allies and in the event of any provocations from NATO, an effective response will be given, ”Shapovalov concluded.
* The Atlantic Council of the United States is an organization whose activities have been declared undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office of 25.07.2019.