Every year, the Russian armed forces organize a big major exercise taking place at the beginning of September. In a 4-year cycle, it takes place alternately in eastern Russia (Vostok), central Russia (Tzentr), in the Caucasus (Kavkaz), and in the western zone (Zapad). This year's exercise, Zapad-2021, the culminating part of which will take place from September 10 to 16, will take place largely in Belarus, as well as on the outskirts of Saint-Petersburg and in the Kalningrad enclave, and will mobilize, in total, nearly 200.000 soldiers and civilians , even if the number of soldiers actually deployed by Russia for this exercise in Belarus will not exceed 15.000. Unlike in previous years, however, this exercise is part of a vast rapprochement effort between Minsk and Moscow, after strong protests following the highly questionable election of President Lukashenko in the summer of 2020, and the strong repressions of all protest movements that followed.
While on the eve of the elections, Belarusian President staged attempted aggression from Russia on Belarus to attract the favors of Westerners, Alexandre Loukashenkp had to resolve to appeal to Moscow when shortly after these, moreover marked by numerous frauds, he had to contain the popular movement which threatened to dismiss him. The opportunity was obviously too good for the Kremlin not to seize it, Vladimir Putin has never made a secret of his intention to bring the two countries closer. Since then, the Belarusian President has multiplied outrages, confusing an airliner to challenge an opponent, multiplying political trials, and going as far as set up a network of illegal migrants from Syria and Iraq in an attempt to destabilize its Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish neighbors. On several occasions, he also pretended to anticipate a NATO assault on Belarus, without this having, it is true, hardly aroused any emotion, neither in the West, nor even in Russia.
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