Minister: Estonia, NATO await greater transparency from Zapad exercise
Estonia and NATO are keeping a close eye on preparations for the Zapad joint military exercise of Russia and Belarus and await from both countries greater transparency and observance of international obligations in letter, as well as spirit, Estonia's Defense Minister Juri Luik said on Friday, August 25.
"In Zapad we have a joint training exercise of Belarus and Russia, in regard to which we expect to see much greater transparency and observance of international agreements both before the exercise and during it," Luik said according to remarks published on the website of the Ministry of Defense.
Russia has presented the Zapad exercise only in the Nato-russia Council, where it was notified that altogether, 7,000 military personnel from Belarus and 5,200 from Russia will take part in the Sept. 1420 drills.
"Considering the experience from and the scale of the exercises of strategic level staged by Russia, also Zapad 2017 and the additional exercises to be held parallel to it will be based on an anti-nato attack scenario, in which up to 100,000 Russian soldiers and officers may take part -- significantly more than officially reported," Luik said.
Russia has decided to present the exercise at a single event, to be held for the defense attaches accredited to Moscow at the Luga training ground on Sept. 18-19. No official Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) invitations to monitor the exercise have been sent.
Belarus has formally notified the OSCE that Zapad will be held in the territory of Belarus on Sept. 14-20. In addition, Belarus has, under the principle of voluntariness of the Vienna document, invited two observers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and Sweden each to take part in a program lasting from Sept.16-20. Estonia has accepted the invitation of Belarus.
Additionally, the Estonian defense attache will participate in a Zapad related program to be organized by the Belarus Ministry of Defense on Sept.19-21.
According to official information, 7,090 members of the armed forces of Belarus and 3,106 members of the armed forces of Russia, 138 main battle tanks, 232 armored vehicles and 142 large caliber weapons of indirect fire will take part in the exercise in the territory of Belarus and up to 185 sorties of flying craft will be made.