Baltic states call OSCE meeting over Belarus' military exercises

Flags at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Flags at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Source: OSCE.

Following insufficient responses from Belarus on joint military exercises with Russia, the Baltic States are calling for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) members.

Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Liisa Toots told ERR Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have requested a meeting to be held on February 16.

"This is the next step for the Baltic States in the Vienna Document Risk Mitigation Mechanism," she said.

Member states will be allowed to submit questions to other OSCE member states if unannounced military exercises are held.

Lithuania submitted questions in writing but the Baltic countries did not recieve sufficient explanations last Friday.

Now, the next step is to hold consultations and all member states may attend,  Sander Soone, Estonia's permanent representative to the OSCE, told ERR.

A meeting held on Monday did not yield better results. The Baltic states asked Belarus which units are participating in the exercises, what is the purpose of the exercise, and what the Russian troops will be doing.

"There, too, Belarus did not provide enough explanations for what is happening and why," Soone said.

Today's meeting will seek further clarification but it is not known what will happen afterward.

"It is still a diplomatic meeting - concerns are being discussed, it is hoped that a solution will be found with these talks, but if not, the possibilities of the Vienna Document will be exhausted," he said.

Russian troops have been moved into Belarus and are participating in joint military exercises. It is thought there could be up to 30,000 which is the highest number since the end of the Cold War.

Last week, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia requested a "detailed explanation on the exercise," including the total number of troops, battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, mortars and rocket launchers, envisaged sorties per aircraft, and rapid-reaction forces involved, a spokesperson for the Estonian Embassy in Washington told website Defense News.

The Vienna Document allows all member states to ask for exercise information as a confidence-building measure whenever they feel threatened by another member's troop movements.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) is the world's largest regional security organization with 57 members.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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