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Joint military exercise West-2017 between Belarus and Russia will be held from September 14 to 20. These drills have got a scandalous fame, having attracted increased attention of the neighboring countries, as well as politically active Belarusian public.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko called these exercises "Anti-West-2017", some Lithuanian MPs demand not to leave the country during the exercises until September 20. Defense Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Ursula von der Leyen said that the number of servicemen involved in the exercises of the West-2017 announced by Belarus and Russia is greatly understated. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg believes that West-2017 does not directly threaten any of the NATO countries.
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko have stated: "We are not going to attack anyone. We have invited an practically everyone to come and see the drills. Let them come and see.
Despite all attempts by some opposition politicians to talk about the country's hybrid occupation during these exercises, most of the Belarusians remain indifferent to this topic. September 8, oppositional National Congress of Belarus held an unauthorized protest action in the center of Minsk, which was attended by about 300 people. According to observers, such a small number of demonstrators shows that the majority of Belarusians are concerned about these exercises much less than their western neighbors.
Politically active Belarusians paint a grim picture of possible results of the exercises, but most of their fellow citizens are not alarmed by these gloomy prospects.
First, the Belarusians are sure that Lukashenko will not give his power (and consequently, Belarus's sovereignty) to anyone, neither to his own oppositionists, nor to the Kremlin. Lukashenko, even under pressure from the Kremlin, has not even agreed to the deployment of a Russian military base in Belarus – why should he agree that Russian troops should stay here after the exercises? And how can 3,000 Russian servicemen, participants of West-2017, annex Belarus with its 65,000-strong army? Moreover, if we look pragmatically, there is no serious conflict between Minsk and Moscow, as there are no signs of an information war.
Well, the last argument, which could sometimes be read in social media - "why should Russia seize us if we belong with guts to Russia?"
As was reported before, this year most of the exercises involving 10200 military personnel take place in Belarus: 7200 from the Armed forces of Belarus, and approximately 3,000 from the Armed forces of the Russian Federation. Total participation will involve 12700 military personnel and 680 units of equipment.
"The main goal of the drills is to test the possibilities of Belarus and Russia to ensure military security of the ally country, their readiness to repel possible aggression, and improve the coherence of military administration, field and aerial training of formations and military units of the Armed forces of the two countries," noted the Belarusian Defense Ministry.
The practical part will take place at six firing ranges in Belarus: Lepel, Borisov, Losvido, Osypovichi, landfills, the air force and air defense forces Ruzhany and Domanovsky, and near the the village of Dretun.