Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Russia-Belarus Military Exercises

On June 22 the Washington Post published an AP report from Minsk, Belarus on the sixth day of military exercises between Russian and Belarusian forces, categorizing them as "the largest ever for the two former Soviet republics."
The exercises envisage a joint response to an unnamed, outside military threat. Russian MiG-29 fighter jets practiced intercepting enemy planes over western Belarus over the weekend, as part of the drills.

Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko - who has been dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States and other Western nations for his relentless crackdown on dissent - has repeatedly accused the West of harboring aggressive intentions.

Russia, meanwhile, has watched warily as former Soviet bloc countries bordering Belarus - Poland, Latvia and Lithuania - have joined NATO. Russian military officials have announced plans to set up a permanent air base in Belarus and deploy air defense missiles there.

Russia and Belarus signed a union agreement in 1996 providing for close political, economic and military ties, and their armed forces have held frequent joint drills.

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