Russia Begins Military Drills in Belarus

 Russia Begins Military Drills in Belarus

The joint exercises are not uncommon, but NATO has described the latest drills as Russia’s biggest deployment to Belarus since the Cold War. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis talks continue.

Russian and Belarusian forces are starting a 10-day large-scale military exercise in Belarus on Thursday.

The drills come amid rising tensions over Russia’s buildup of troops near its border with Ukraine.

NATO has described the “Allied Resolve drills” as Russia’s biggest deployment to ex-Soviet state Belarus since the Cold War

What is the scale of the drills?

According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the drills will take place at five military training areas over the course of 10 days, mostly in western and southwestern Belarus, near the country’s borders with Poland and Ukraine.

It is unknown how many troops are taking part in the drills.

Moscow Carnegie Center researcher Artem Schreibman wrote that “there had never been such a large number of Russian military personnel on Belarusian soil in the entire post-Soviet period.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg estimated the number of troops as being around 30,000.

Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told DW the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine “is the largest such buildup we have seen in Europe for decades.”

It is unclear whether nuclear weapons would be part of the drills. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, shortly before the military exercise started medium-range strategic bombers were on patrol over Belarus.

Wolfgang Richter, a military expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW there was nothing unusual in such patrol flights: “the US does this as well, these are political signals.” He added that such flights are normally carried out without the involvement of nuclear weapons.

“Iskander-M” rockets, which NATO says were brought to Belarus, can also be equipped with nuclear weapons. Richter pointed out that in Russia these weapons have so far been equipped with conventional weapons.

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