Monday, July 31, 2017

Minsk Seeks Maximum Transparency during Zapad 2017 Exercise to Block Provocations, Belarusian Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – Fearful that Moscow might use the Zapad 2017 exercises to stage one or another kind of “provocation,” the Belarusian government is seeking to forestall that by promoting transparency through the invitation of as many international observers as possible, according to two Minsk analysts.

            Moscow has already dispatched to Belarus equipment and personnel to take part in the September military exercises known as Zapad 2017. Last Thursday, Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka again stressed the defensive character of the exercise and Minsk began issuing invitations to observers from neighboring states.

            Today, Petr Kukhta of the EuroBelarus portal, published his interviews with two of Minsk’s leading foreign policy specialists about the upcoming event and why having international observers attend is so important for Belarus and possibly for its neighbors too (

                Andrey Porotnikov of the Belarus Security Blog says that he doesn’t believe that the exercise threatens Belarus with occupation or annexation as a result of Zapad 2017 “but here the problem is more that we may encounter provocations from Russia which will complicate or in general make impossible the normalization of relations with Belarus and the West and create very great problems with relations with Ukraine.”

            That Russia might take some provocative action can’t be excluded,  he continues, not only because of its anger about the new US sanctions regime but also because it is simultaneousy carrying out “large-scale exercises in … the North Caucasus and the Southern Federal Military District, which I think will have a clearly expressed aggressive character.”

            “In principle,” Porotnikov says, “we cannot completely exclude provocations on the territory of Belarus which the Ukrainians are very concerned about. For example, a Russian plane from the territory of Belarus could fly over the territory of Ukraine and Ukrainian anti-aircraft forces could be given the order to destroy it.”

            To ward off such possibilities or to ensure that they do not get out of hand if they occur, the analyst argues, is possible “only by a policy of maximum openness of the exercises, the exchange of information, the inclusion of all possible observers and tight control of the activity of Russian units on the territory of Belarus.”

            The second Minsk expert Kukhta interviewed was Arseny Sivitskky, the director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research who stressed that “now it is extraordinarily important” that Belarus “not lose the status of a donor of regional security.” That it has restricted the number of Russian troops slated to come to 3,000 is an indication of its desire to avoid that.

            Belarus, he says, “all the same is playing a leading role in the planning and organization” of Zapad 2017.  It intends to have the exercise take place in the most open way possible, “without excesses or any surprises. Therefore, it has informed in advance not only [its] neighbors but also international organizations, including the OSCE.”

            According to Sivitsky, “Belarus really intends that these exercises take place without any breakdown in regional stability and security. But this is the position of the Belarusians site and may not coincide with that of Moscow which will be carrying out portions of Zapad on its own territory, about which up to now nothing is known.

            He says he “does not exclude” either that Moscow may again raise the issue of establishing an airbase in Belarus, given that this “strategic intention” on the part of Russia remains. “Belarus has great significance for Russia from a military-political point of view in order to put pressure on the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine.”

            “To exclude provocations, for example, on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border is impossible,” Sivitsky says.  “Our partner [Russia] conducts itself in an unpredictable way not only with the countries of the West but even with Belarus, its chief military-political ally.”

            “But the Belarusian authorities are insuring themselves” in the following way, he says: “Any departure from the plan will not remain without a reaction from the side of the Belarusian leadership. About that there can be no doubts.”

Russian Long-Haul Truckers Strike Continues, More Political than Ever

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – A convoy of 200 striking long-haul truckers who left Moscow 11 days ago has arrived in Yekaterinburg as part of an all-Russia tour that will take them to cities in Siberia and the Russian Far East and at a protest there not only called for the end to the Plato fee system, the reason for the strike originally, but for the election of a new Russian president.

            The truckers, who held their demonstration today not on the highway but in a park in the center of the city where they put up all their protest signs, say they want to nominate Andrey Bazhutin, the president of the Couriers Union of Russia, to be president of the country ( and

                Speakers at today’s meeting said, the Kasparov portal reported “that practically everything in the country is now prohibited and that it is very difficult to get approval for a convoy.” In this way, they signaled that the labor action of the drivers “has become a protest not only against Plato but also against the ineffective policy of the state.”

Note: Misattribution

I mistakenly attributed the previous Window to Vitaly Portnikov. It was based on an article by Igor Eidman. I thank those alert readers for correcting me, and I very much regret my mistake. Paul Goble

‘Alternatives to Revolution in Putin’s Russia are Not Elections but More Wars,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – Last week, Pskov parliamentarian Lev Shlosberg argued that the only alternative to revolution in the Russia of Vladimir Putin are elections but Igor Eidman argues that in fact, Putin has no intention of holding real elections but instead will, in the absence of a revolution, unleash still more wars of aggression.

            The Russian commentator argues that “the alternative to revolution in the present-day situation is not elections which do not exist and under the current regime will not take place but war. The Putin powers are already conducting regional wars in Syria and Ukraine” but “of course, the regime will not stop at these” (

                The Kremlin’s “adventurist policy will inevitably lead to new military conflicts,” Portnikov says. “The very existence of this aggressive and inadequate regime, with its atomic weapons, sharply increases the risk of global war and nuclear catastrophe.” And thus the continued existence of Putin’s regime threatens people far more than any revolution.

            The commentator points out that “the overwhelming majority of European revolutions of contemporary times, including [Russia’s] in 1991” did not lead to civil war,” and consequently, those who suggest that any future overturning of the Russian regime will have that outcome are frightening people in ways that help keep the regime in power.

            “Unfortunately, there is no fairytale figure who could lead out of the Kremlin the enormous army of rats in uniform and not who have settled there, headed by a kind who long ago lost his adequacy” to rule.  “They won’t go by themselves,” Eidman says, “and to hope for that is to deceive oneself and those around us.”

            And he continues: “Only a revolution can liquidate the Putin regime, the currently most dangerous source of threats of a global catastrophe.” And thus a revolution and not anything is “is the single chance for people striving to ensure that their families have a secure future.”