Terras: We will accept Belarus' invitation to observe Zapad
According to Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) Gen. Riho Terras, Estonia will accept Belarus' invitation and send its observers to the large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad in September.
Terras said in an interview with daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) that Zapad exercises have taken place for decades already, even deep in the Soviet era. He noted that the most recent Zapad exercise, which took place in 2013, was fairly large in scale and there was reason to believe that this year's would be even bigger.
"Yes, the exercise which the Russians officially call Zapad takes place at a specific time in eptember, but preparatory exercises, cycle exercises are already ongoing," Terras said.
According to the commander, Belarus and Russia conducted joint exercises testing communications in July, and a relatively large demonstrative exercise is taking place in Pskov, not far from Southeastern Estonia, where amphibious troops are putting on a show breaking bricks with their heads, among other things.
"These should all be taken as preparatory exercises, which will culminate in September," he found.
According to Terras, the Russian Federation has dedicated a lot of money and might to the development of its armed forces and wants to show it off. Unfortunately, he added, they also sometimes show it off by means of military action, as has been seen in Ukraine and Georgia.
"It is important that we know what is going on," Terras explained. "That we know in detail what is going on, that we keep track of it and be prepared. But we must also be prepared when exercises aren't being conducted. I don't think that anything will occur in the framework of field exercises which could spill over to our side or which we will tangibly be able to see. There have already been points of contact with Russian military equipment in the air and at sea, however, and there will surely be more. The more machines are out there, the more likely this is."
Editor: Aili Vahtla