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“Not only Europe, but also Belarus is behind hysteria over West-2017”

Dmitry Bolkunets, expert at the High School of Economics, blames western politicians and Belarusian government for current hysteria over the West-2017 Russian-Belarusian drills. Talking to EADaily, the expert said some Belarusian political analysts linked to government agencies in Belarus had commented quite negatively on the event.

According to Bolkunets, those political analysts started disseminating materials claiming that Russia would use West-2017 to occupy Belarus yet last years. “Evidently, they seek to create an illusion of danger coming from Moscow, first. And increase tension in the Russian-European relations, second. They have achieved their goals partially, considering the current intensive information propaganda by the West,” Bolkunets said.

The West’s propaganda that was easily grasped by Belarusian experts presents the drills as a threat to the countries neighboring Belarus – Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, the expert says.

“These countries are trying to create the necessary public opinion and use it to justify deployment of NATO troops in Poland and Baltic States. It is hard to make any predictions, since tension is growing in this region, which greatly affects stability in Eastern Europe, indeed. As we know, Belarus hosts drills once in two years and there have never been any provocations. I am sure that the Russian army will leave the territory of Belarus within the specified time,” the expert says.

He is sure that in Belarus, there are two strong trends managed by a conditional center in Minsk. “One group is the security officials who support the drills. There is a second group that opposes the event. This group considers Belarus as a neutral zone, including in military affairs,” Bolkunets says.

He believes that media support to West-2017 drills once again manifested how important it is for CSTO members to establish a single information policy line NATO countries do. “It should be taken into account that Belarus is a CSTO member and its neighbors are NATO countries. While NATO members strictly implement the terms dictated by relevant central organizations, in CSTO countries, decisions are signed, but not always implemented. Sometimes, it is very hard to understand the logic of some CSTO governments’ actions. There are good initiatives, but media does not support them. Meantime, it is necessary to hold comprehensive discussions, avoid information leaks and inform the public about the goals and tasks of drills in the territory of Belarus or Russia. Instead, there are regular information leaks that prompt public discontent. I think this is senseless and absolutely stupid,” the expert says.

The West-2017 drills are scheduled for September 14 in Belarus. Hysteria over the drills is growing in the West, Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus.

As EADaily reported earlier, the campaign discrediting West-2017 started with the Report “Belarus in the Context of Russia-NATO conflict” published by Belarusian Center of Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies in August, 2016. The authors of the Report, Yuri Tsarik and Arseniy Sivitski, are sure that efforts to prevent external “hybrid” military threats to independence and territorial integrity of Belarus should be based on cooperation with NATO. They claim that Russia constitutes the key military threat to Belarus and seeks to use the drills to deprive Minsk of sovereignty.

At the same time, they explained development of versatile cooperation of Belarus and NATO with the need for “transparent and predictable relations with the West” to counteract “aggressively disposed” Russia that has set a strategic goal to “turn Belarus into South Ossetia on the Ukrainian scenario.”

Shortly after publication, the government started implementing the provisions of the Report. In October 2016, a Joint Statement of Cooperation between Defense Minister of Belarus and Defense Secretary of U.S. was adopted along with a Bilateral Military Cooperation Plan for 2017.

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