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28 Oct 2019

Belarus’ measures to respond to NATO exercise explained

Belarus’ measures to respond to NATO exercise explained

MINSK, 28 October (BelTA) – Belarus will take a number of measures to adequately respond to the deployment of NATO assets near the Belarusian border and the organization of the NATO exercise Defender Europe, BelTA learned from Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov. The official delivered a report on the military and political situation, risks, challenges and threats to Belarus to the head of state on 28 October.

The defense minister said: “A number of decisions were made during the meeting with the head of state. They will allow us to step up efforts to adequately respond to actions of the military contingent in the neighboring territory. The measures are related to arms control, the sending of inspection groups to the neighboring territory, and more ambitious tasks for the reconnaissance service.”

Measures will be taken to reinforce the Belarusian border and station more ground troops in the Lithuanian direction. A number of information and diplomacy measures are being taken in addition to military ones. According to the defense minister, they will allow dragging the matter of the presence of NATO troops near the Belarusian border into the spotlight.

“As part of the response to these events individual tactical actions will be taken in this direction by missile and artillery units, air force units, motorized infantry, paratroopers. Joint actions will be taken together with the border service. There are plenty of measures – measures that have been planned in advance and measures authorized by the head of state during today’s meeting,” the defense minister added.

As for military cooperation with Russia, the sides intended to revise the plan for using the regional military taskforce next year. The plan will be adjusted taking into account the evolving situation. Thus, Belarusian and Russian military will perform joint reconnaissance missions due to NATO exercises.

“These measures are absolutely adequate to the events taking place in the neighboring territory. They will allow us to respond and keep an eye on the situation and the circumstances,” Andrei Ravkov said. “As for the general public – both international and Belarusian one – it should be aware that the Armed Forces will be able to ensure the peaceful labor and protection of our nation in the course of their day-to-day operations.”

The defense minister also pointed out that NATO forces in the countries Belarus neighbors with have been increased by several times in the last few years. “Since 2014 and 2017 respectively Operation Atlantic Resolve and Operation Enhanced Forward Presence staged by NATO primarily due to the standoff with the Russian Federation have allowed beefing up these forces in nearby territories in Baltic countries and Poland by 13 times – from some 550 people to 7,300 people. Material assets, combat hardware, and ammunition are being reinforced, too,” the defense minister noted.

The battle group being created in the military exercise area near the Lithuanian city of Pabrade represents a tank battalion made up of two tank companies and two infantry companies. They are already arriving and deploying at a site located 15km away from the Belarusian border. The infrastructure of the exercise area has been prepared for various exercises the battle group may need. “As far as I can understand it has been done over a long period of time exactly in order to build up NATO presence in the neighboring territory,” Andrei Ravkov noted. “Certainly, we are taking measures, planned ones to respond to all the ongoing processes.”

According to the defense minister, the NATO exercise Defender Europe does not look that scary, however, certain things represent a reason for concern. “The contingent is getting constantly reinforced. If we host an exercise in Belarus, we don’t station troops for it for half a year the way NATO intends to do in this exercise area, including in the direction of Ostrovets. It is unacceptable for us. If we arrange an exercise near the state border, we are talking about two weeks at best,” Andrei Ravkov pointed out.

BelTA reported earlier that on 28 October Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko received a report from State Secretary of the Security Council Stanislav Zas, Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov, and Chief of the Central Intelligence Office, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Pavel Tikhonov. They informed the head of state about the evolving military and political situation in view of the deployment of NATO forces near the Belarusian border and preparations of NATO countries for the forthcoming exercise.

“This is certainly an armored fist. We shouldn’t downplay it. Yet, 30 tanks and 30 armored vehicles are a ridiculous force against the Belarusian army. We, as I often recall, have carried out four modernization programs of our army, as we were well aware what kind of fists they could create near our borders, and what kind of enemy we could face, god forbid,” said the Belarusian leader. “We were preparing for this. So 30 tanks sound ridiculous for our army. We can even stand back and take no measures in response,” he added.

At the same time the head of state pointed out another fact. “Never before have they moved troops from across the ocean so defiantly close to our borders. It has never happened. I think it’s a first for Lithuania. It is a precedent. That’s my first point. My second point is that naturally we have to respond to such demonstrations. But we have to bear in mind that we shouldn’t rattle our arms. We are a peace-loving nation, we do not want a war," the president said.

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