BOBRUISK, 1 September (BelTA) – The Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2021 is held solely for the purposes of training and shakedown of forces, BelTA learned from Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 1 September.
“I have seen many such exercises. I know these things from the inside. We hold exercises to train our armed forces if the worst comes to the worst, God forbid. There are plenty of reasons for concern,” the Belarusian leader said.
He recalled that last year Belarus had to put half of the army on alert and redeploy to the western border. “The reasons are more than enough,” said the head of state.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus and Russia are working together in this direction. "We have an allied army together with the Russian Federation in this direction. The armed forces of the two countries are very similar but we need cohesion,” the head of state noted. “This is why we have to train together. Because we will have to fight together. Since we have an army, armed forces, they have to be trained, they have to work together.”
In his words, a large number of troops will be involved in the exercise in the two countries from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. "At all training grounds. Putin and I have agreed that I will supervise the main part of the exercise. We will host it in Belarus. Russians will provide several training grounds, up to a dozen. The Russian president will visit a training ground to inspect the exercise in Russia while I will do it here. We will see how ready and how cohesive our armed forces are. We have a joint air defense system, a common defense policy. We have the army which must be trained and drilled. This is why we are organizing the exercise," the president said.
The focus and the theme of the exercise is purely defensive, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. "We are not going to attack anyone. We do not need that. Yet, they are still making a fuss about it… They say they are very concerned that we will go nearly as far as cutting off the Baltic states, that, you know, we will go through the Suwalki Gap to Kaliningrad and cut off the Baltic states. Nobody needs these Baltic states. Belarus has its our own demographic issues, let alone Russia."
"We do not need someone else's land. But we need to learn to defend ourselves. We will drill the cohesion of our armed forces, determine our weak points and work on them. Although things are more or less okay now," the head of state added.
Apart from that, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that foreign citizens are invited to observe the exercise. "They are free to watch it," he said.