Joint exercises of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia Zapad 2017 (West 2017) need to be maximally transparent, said the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, during the report on the drills. They will be held in Belarus in the autumn.
The Head of State asked about the composition of the troops involved, the exercise area, as well as the expected results. In addition, Alexander Lukashenko demanded that the Defense Ministry leadership carefully consider cooperation with all other authorities.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
The international situation obliges us to continuously improve the skills of the regional group of troops to protect the western borders of the Belarus-Russia Union State. The upcoming exercise is the best way to check the readiness of the military of the two countries to cooperate. Thus, we strengthen our common defenses and will continue to do so.
The upcoming events are absolutely transparent. And I ask all of you to make this event in our country transparent, not only for our friends in the CSTO, EurAsEC and the CIS, but also for the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO. We do not hide anything and do not need to hide. If NATO wants to be present at our drills, they are welcome. Especially since I'm now getting such information and relevant signals from them. Once again I want to emphasize and tell those who send these signals: we are not hiding anything from anyone. Let's invite you to these drills in the established order. And you will see that they are purely defensive in nature. Neither we nor the Russian Federation is going to attack someone. We do not want to provoke anyone here. This is impossible. We are just training to ensure our security in any situation.
The President also stressed that Belarus is not going to curtail military cooperation with Russia because of differences in other areas.
And the upcoming exercise is another demonstration of constancy in ensuring the security of the two nations.
The scope of the exercise is expected to be very significant: from the Kola Peninsula to Belarus. 7 firing grounds in Belarus will be used. As part of the regional group of forces, there will be the Armed Forces of Belarus and 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District of Russia.
In total, West 2017 will involve about 13,000 personnel.
Andrei Ravkov, Defense Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
The focus of these training activities is to hone defensive skills. We invite the appropriate representatives of NATO, representatives of Western countries to attend these drills and to make sure these drills are defensive.
West 2017 will be held from 14 to 20 September.