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What do US tanks do at the borders of Belarus?

US tanks deployed near the border of Belarus

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

As part of the “Defender Europe 2020” exercises, armoured vehicles of 1 division of the United States Army were relocated to Lithuania.

They consisted of 30 Abrams tanks and 12 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. The US military will stay in Lithuania until the spring of 2020.

Armoured vehicles arrived in Lithuania for exercises, much like the maneuvers of the Cold War, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) was preparing for a direct clash with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw bloc.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko instructed the government to adequately respond to the appearance of American tanks at the borders of the republic.

Minsk is concerned that the unfolding maneuvers are the largest in the past 25 years, and it is planned to work out precisely “troop transfer from the US to the European continent.”

Exercises happening 15 km from the Belarusian-Lithuanian border alarmed Minsk.

“There is a return to a forgotten militarisation of politics and the arms race. Military spending all of our neighbors not only do more than that of Belarus, they grow,” a Belarus official said.

“We see an increase in intensity of combat training, the development of infrastructure for the purpose of transfer and deployment of troops.”

The Lithuanian authorities pretended to be surprised by the reaction from Minsk, and assured that Belarus had nothing to fear.

“Lithuania is directly interested in the independence of the republic and its territorial integrity. Therefore, I can assure that, at least from the West, there are no military or other threats to the sovereignty of Belarus,” said Lithuania’s National Defence minister Raimundas Karoblis .

According to the minister, the deployment of such a military unit as a batallion in Lithuania will not cause any harm to the security of the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile, the unusual scope of maneuvers was spoken not only in Minsk. The fact that the “Defender Europe 2020” provides for the most ambitious redeployment of troops from the United States to Europe in the last 25 years was notified by the command of the US army.

American military leaders said their actions would resemble the exercises REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany ) during the Cold War. But our current maneuvers “will be more difficult,” they said.

Russia and Belarus also conduct joint exercises, but they differ from similar events by Western “partners.”

In October, the “Union Shield 2019” ended, with the participation of 12 000 soldiers.

The maneuvers involved more than 200 tanks, 70 aircraft and helicopters.

But the “Shield” was not held at the western Belarus border, but in the depths of Russia, in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

The Russian General Staff explained that the place for working out the interaction of the two armies was chosen in such a way it would not worry Western partners and not worsen the situation in Eastern Europe.

Moreover, Minsk’s latest fears are not related to the threat of a direct military attack.

The alarm is more likely due to the worsening situation around Belarus.

But the trend is obvious – there is a buildup of NATO forces on the Belarusian borders.

There are no restraining arrangements today.

After the US withdrawal from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, nothing potentially prevents Washington from deploying missiles in Poland.

Tanks are an offensive weapon. Obviously, the exercises will not be defensive, but aggressive.

Such actions upset the balance of power in the region. Stories about the allegedly existing Russian threat are a search for an excuse.

Everyone is so worried about the internal politics of Belarus, about Belarusian sovereignty, as if someone cares about Minsk’s problems.

Actually, a reason is being sought for the outbreak of hostilities, which can be used at the right time.

According to Belarusian experts, Minsk and Moscow will continue to try to “persuade Nato”.

“But they are not heard, formally, the alliance participates in dialogue, but not in order to hear the opponent. Recently, Nato rejected Moscow’s offer of a moratorium on the deployment of missiles.

“Both Belarus and Russia have to carry out diplomatic work, but without much hope of success.”

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