Min­is­ter: Es­to­nia, NATO await greater trans­parency from Za­pad ex­er­cise

The Baltic Times - - BALTIC NEWS - BNS/TBT Staff

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.

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