«West-2017»: Minsk will show a lot but not everything

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Minsk is eager to make the “West 2017” Russo-Belarusian military exercise transparent as a manifestation of its ability to pursue an independent security policy in the region, which often goes unnoticed by the West and Ukraine, who expect from the Belarusian authorities more than they can afford.

The visit of Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics to Belarus was a remarkable event. For the first time, an EU and NATO member state said it was satisfied with the level of openness of the Belarusian authorities regarding the “West-2017” Belarusian-Russian military exercise, which would be held in September. Previously, Minsk heard only reproaches and demands.

The Belarusian authorities understand that the maximum transparency of the “West-2017” exercise is in their best interest. On the one hand, this would demonstrate a responsible regional security policy and Minsk’s independence. On the other hand, this would insure Belarus from unforeseen situations during the exercise, which could not be ruled out.

Nevertheless, demands of the neighbouring NATO countries and Ukraine regarding transparency during the “West-2017” exercise beyond the requirements stipulated by international agreements, have irritated Minsk. The Belarusian authorities treat it as an attempt on national sovereignty and fear that by meeting the demands of their neighbours, they would show their weakness and provoke new demands vis-à-vis Minsk. In addition, when putting requirements for Belarus, the West and Ukraine should understand that the interethnic nature of the “West-2017” exercise implies Belarus’ close coordination with Russia, including the transparency level for international observers.

For political reasons, Minsk is unlikely to be able to ensure full transparency of the “West-2017” Russo-Belarusian military exercise and international monitoring during the whole period of the Russian contingent’s presence in Belarus. Nevertheless, the Belarusian authorities are likely to demonstrate the most possible openness during the exercise. That said, Russia could regard such openness as superfluous, while the West and Ukraine as insufficient. That said, a solution which could please all parties is unlikely to exist.

Belarus in focus

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