West-2017 Exercise is Very Damaging for Belarus – Statement by the BNR Rada

Statement by the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Exile regarding the Belarusian-Russian joint military exercise

The military exercise codenamed “West-2017” is starting in Belarus, and is held jointly with military units of the Russian Federation. This exercise is taking place against the background of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the wars in Ukraine and Syria, and cyber-attacks against the democratic institutions of the West.

The Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (the BNR Rada) shares the concerns expressed by the democratic community in Belarus, as well as by some foreign observers, regarding that some of the Russian military units may – contrary to all the statements from the representatives of the ministry of defense of Belarus – stay in Belarus after the exercises. The BNR Rada emphasizes that such a development would present a new factor of danger not only for Belarus but also for other European countries – the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, and the Republic of Poland. This would present a particular risk for Ukraine, as its northern and western regions would in that case become exposed for an attack by Russia’s land forces.

The BNR Rada points out that the withdrawal of Russian units from Belarus must take place no later than 30 September, in line with what was stated by the official Minsk. Failing that, any extra time spent by Russian military units and equipment in Belarus over the deadline should be regarded as the occupation of Belarus.

The BNR Rada considers that regardless whether or not all the Russian military personnel fully withdraw from Belarus, the very fact of holding the joint exercise with Russia – an aggressor state – has already become a source of great political damage to Belarus, as well as of damage to its reputation in the eyes of the international community.

The BNR Rada states that the Belarusian nation has nothing to do with the dubious military alliance between the authoritarian regimes governing Belarus and Russia. Belarus has never held a democratic poll in which the nation would have approved a military alliance with Russia. The very accession of Belarus to the CIS Collective Security Treaty system – controlled by the General Staff in Moscow – took place under the pressure of a pro-Russian majority in the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Belarus in 1993. That contravened the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus – which stated a course to establishing Belarus as a neutral state. The 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus also enshrined a course to military neutrality for Belarus. Consequently, Belarus’s having virtually joined a military alliance with Russia has been and remains a violation, including in light of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus currently in force.

Together with the democratic community in Belarus, the BNR Rada has been calling attention to the Kremlin’s dangerous moves regarding Belarus on many fronts: its attempts to place new military bases in Belarus, and its dragging Belarus into the orbit of Russian military interests, which have become increasingly strong. The current exercise has aggravated this problem even further.

The BNR Rada warns that – given Lukashenka’s complete dependence on Moscow, as well as the lack of free elections in Belarus for over two decades, the lack of a legitimate parliament and of freedom of the media while, at the same time, there is a total domination of Russian propaganda on the media landscape of Belarus – any aggressive move by the Kremlin against Belarus could lead to the most adverse results for the independence of Belarus.

The BNR Rada calls on the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France to fulfil their responsibilities, as may become necessary, regarding to the assurances they gave for the sovereignty of Belarus, in exchange for the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Belarus, in the Budapest memorandum.

The BNR Rada calls on the Belarusian public and Belarusian patriots serving in the armed forces of Belarus to be ready to defend the independence of Belarus from any external threat.

13 September 2017