RUSSIA, BELARUS TO STAGE MASSIVE DEFENSE EXERCISE NEAR BALTIC SEA on September 2013 reported that Belarus and Russia are due to hold their joint Zapad (“West”) 2013 military exercise September 20 – 26. It is a combined operational training involving nearly thirteen thousand personnel, 350 combat vehicles, including seventy tanks, over fifty artillery units, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as over fifty aircraft and ships, including the Azov amphibious support vessel to rehearse and test rapid reaction capabilities across Belarus and Russia’s Western Military District. The majority of activity will be concentrated around Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic Sea and at six Belarusian firing ranges, along with limited naval components in the Baltic and Barents Seas. Excerpts below:

This mobilization marks an upgrade from the last Russian-Belarusian exercise, Zapad2009, which involved only two hundred vehicles.

Interestingly, this year Russia will be supplying 2,500 personnel, a limited number when compared to Belarus’ expected deployment of ten thousand. The simulation is to be focused on deterioration of state relationships from interethnic conflict, ethnoreligious problems and territorial claims thereof. These are all “hot topics” at the moment and parallels can not only be draw across the region but worldwide.

At least one stage of the exercise will also test the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s rapid reaction units. It is possible these units will include personnel from other CSTO states besides Belarus and Russia — Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Their participation is part of the Vzaimodeystviye (“Interaction”) 2013 exercise. For the last three years, CSTO forces have held exercises in Russia (2010), Tajikistan (2011) and Armenia (2012). This year, some three hundred CSTO rapid reaction force personnel is expected to be involved.

The Belarusian authorities have indicated that new and emerging defense technologies will be used during the event, including equipment that has not yet passed final operational deployment tests. Such hardware includes indigenously produced Belarusian electronic warfare systems, navigation, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles.

While security leadership in neighboring NATO countries, especially Poland and Latvia, interpret Zapad 2013 as having a potentially aggressive character, the alliance as a whole has not made any political comments. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen does not view the Belarusian-Russian exercise as a threat. (Comment: commentaries in Swedish media have focused on the threatening aspects of the exercise to non-aligned Sweden).


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  1. varabungas Says:

    “Russia will be supplying 2,500 personnel” that is true for Belarus territory, but do not forget to add 9 000 russian troops involved in exercise on Russian soil and also add 20 000 soldiers of russian interior troops performing their own exercise with the same name “zapad 2013”. Such a co-incidence.

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