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China, Belarus Conduct Joint Military Exercises Near NATO’s Borders

China and Belarus have begun joint military drills on Monday, that will last for 11 days, reported Reuters.

The joint exercises take place in Brest, Belarus, just a few kilometers from the border of Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union (EU). The drills also kicked off on the eve of NATO’s summit in Washington.

Eagle Assault

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the anti-terrorist exercises, known as “Eagle Assault,” will see military personnel from both countries acting together to work out issues such as night landing, overcoming water barriers, and conducting operations in a populated area.

The statement also cited Major General Vadim Denisenko, chief of Belarusian special operations command, as saying: “Events taking place in the world are alarming, the situation is uneasy, therefore we are going to practice new forms and methods of performing tactical tasks.”

Chinese Troops Participation

The Belarusian Defense Ministry posted on Telegram several photos showing Chinese troops getting off a plane and offloading equipment. Other photos posted on Monday showed Chinese troops marching at a training ground.

China, Belarus Conduct Joint Military Exercises Near NATO’s Borders
Chinese troops participating in the joint exercises

China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press release on Sunday that personnel from both sides will hold mixed training exercises on tasks such as hostage rescue and anti-terrorism operations, in order to enhance troops’ interoperability and further practical cooperation between both armies.

The Ministry added that Belarus held “a grand welcome ceremony” for the Chinese troops who arrived in Belarus on July 6.

Exercise Timing

The joint drills, which are carried out 40 miles from Minsk’s border with Ukraine, come amid growing geopolitical divisions resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war that continues to threaten regional security, according to CNN.

Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, both close allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Beijing and Minsk have been strengthening ties. Their joint exercises coincided with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Warsaw, where he signed a security agreement with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Moreover, the drills kicked off on the eve of NATO’s summit, that marks the 75th anniversary of the bloc. They also came days after Belarus joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Thursday.

Given this, Martin Sebena, a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong who specializes in China-Europe relations, told the South China Morning Post that the timing and location of the exercises will suggest they are another signal of China’s support for Russia and its allies in Europe.

He said: “The exercise will overlap with the NATO summit and takes place on the … border where Belarus for many months has ‘weaponized’ migrant flows to pressure Poland – and by extension, the EU and NATO.”

Belarusian Provocation

Belarus has faced accusations from NATO and the EU that it weaponizes borders by pushing asylum seekers from third countries towards their borders. The joint exercises with China could be regarded as a further provocation.

China, Belarus Conduct Joint Military Exercises Near NATO’s Borders
Belarusian troops

In a Telegram post, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Monday that NATO’s presence on the border with Belarus is rapidly growing, leading to increased tensions in the region.

“Our country is taking all possible measures to prevent escalation. However, if someone crosses our borders, the reaction will be harsh,” the post added.

Polish Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said on Wednesday that Poland and Lithuania will raise the issue of border protection in Brussels and Washington, reported the Polish Press Agency.

“There is a hybrid war ongoing on the Poland-Belarus border, as well as on the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian borders,” he said.

China-Belarus Ties

Beijing and Minsk have been enhancing their cooperation in recent years. Several days ago, Xi Jinping and his Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with their Belarusian counterparts.

On Monday, the two countries’ foreign ministers met in Beijing, and the Chinese Foreign Minister “expressed China’s willingness to deepen high-level exchanges, strengthen strategic synergy and deepen all-round cooperation with Belarus to advance their all-weather, comprehensive strategic partnership,” according to Chinese state media.

Both countries also agreed to “oppose external interference and resist unilateral bullying.”

Relations with Russia

Belarus played a critical role in Russia’s war on Ukraine, as it served as a launching pad for Moscow’s attack in February 2022. Additionally, Russia announced last year that it will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Similarly, China has served as a crucial diplomatic and economic lifeline for Russia since it launched its war on Ukraine. Beijing has faced Western accusations that it supports Moscow’s war effort through supplying it with dual use goods. However, China denies these allegations.

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