This blog is written by expert in Geopolitics and Security from Royal Holloway, University of London, one of the leading centres of geopolitical research in the UK. This will be a site for us to share the results of our research, and a place for us to comment on latest global events. We welcome your feedback on any of our stories.
The Union Shield 2019 drills are set to involve a total of 12,000 troops and 950 pieces of military equipment, including combat vehicles, aircraft, and helicopters, Russia’s Western Military District said on September 13.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry said it had sent 4,000 soldiers, more than 30 tanks, 80 armored vehicles, 50 multiple rocket launchers, and about 15 aircraft and helicopters.
During the second phase of the exercises, troops will search and eliminate hypothetical saboteurs and illegal armed groups, a statement said.
In August, the chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian armed forces, First Deputy Defense Minister Major-General Aleh Belokonev, said the exercise would be held “deep inside the territory of the Russian Federation and not at practice ranges near [EU] borders” in order to “avoid the escalation of the situation in Europe.”
Belarus and Russia are joined in a union state that exists mainly on paper, and the two countries hold joint military exercises that regularly engage the West’s attention.
The Union Shield drills are carried out every two years alternately on the territory of Russia and Belarus. Union Shield 2017 was held in Belarus and involved some 12,700 troops.
The decision is taken to avoid the escalation of tension in Europe
Russia and Belarus will hold their Union Shield 2019 military exercise deep inside Russia’s territory and far away from the EU borders, Chief of the Belarusian General Staff, First Deputy Defense Minister Major-General Oleg Belokonev said on Wednesday.
“Although NATO’s Allied Forces have boosted the number of military
drills in Eastern Europe near the borders of the [Russia-Belarus] Union
State, the Union Shield 2019 joint drills will take place deep inside
the territory of the Russian Federation and not at practice ranges near
the borders,” the chief of the Belarusian General Staff told a press
briefing on the upcoming maneuvers.
This decision was taken to avoid the escalation of tension in Europe, he stressed.
“This has been done on purpose, in order to avoid the escalation of
the situation in Europe, which once again confirms the desire of Belarus
and Russia to reduce tensions in the region,” he pointed out.
upcoming Union Shield 2019 operational exercise will conclude the
two-year cycle of the joint training of the Russian and Belarusian
troops and is of planned nature, the chief of Belarus’ General Staff
In accordance with the decision by the heads of the two states, the
drills are held once every two years alternately on the territory of
Russia and Belarus, the general stated.
The exercise’s scenario takes into account the analysis of possible
threats to the Union State and the risks of an armed conflict, he
“Practice shows that, as a rule, everything begins from operations by
terrorists, separatists or illegal armed formations that get external
support of third forces. Precisely this scenario will be used during the
upcoming exercise,” the Belarusian general stressed.
Union Shield 2019 exercise
The numerical strength of the troops and military hardware that will
be involved in the upcoming military exercise “does not exceed the level
that has to be observed in compliance with various arms control
treaties,” the general said.
“The Union Shield 2019 exercise is set to involve about 12,000
troops, up to 950 weapon systems, and also up to 70 aircraft and
helicopters, about which the Russian side has timely notified the OSCE
member states under the 2011 Vienna document,” he reported.
Belarus will use over 4,000 personnel, more than 30 tanks, 80 armored
combat vehicles, about 50 multiple launch rocket systems, guns and
mortars, as well as around 15 aircraft and helicopters at the joint
maneuvers in Russia, he noted.
The troops will be accomplishing a wide range of assignments during
the joint drills — from providing cover for the state border and
fighting illegal armed formations to conducting defensive operations and
stabilizing the situation, the Belarusian general said.
Before the Union Shield 2019 drills kick off, special tactical
exercises will have to be held for engineering units from the Russian
and Belarusian armies, along with an instructional methods exercise with
the commanding and directing staff and a general instructional
exercise, he added.
The Union Shield 2019 operational exercise will take place at the Mulino range in the Nizhny Novgorod Region on September 13-19.