Zapad 2021 and the Future of Russia's Force Presence in Belarus
Join the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a discussion on the implications of Russia and Belarus conducting their quadrennial exercise “Zapad-2021.”
In September, Russia and Belarus will conduct their quadrennial exercise, “Zapad-2021,” to demonstrate the readiness and capabilities of Russia’s Western Military District. This exercise is being closely monitored following Russia’s recent mobilization of an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border and within Crimea. Although the Kremlin announced a troop drawdown on April 22, substantial military equipment remained behind for use during Zapad. This exercise will be critical to understanding the potentially permanent shifts in Russia’s military deployments and posture in Belarus following the flawed 2020 Belarusian election, Lukashenko regime’s repressive tactics and the recent air high-jacking of a civilian airline to arrest a Belarusian blogger. What should the West expect from Zapad-2021? How will Russia’s recent military mobilization and pre-positioning of equipment near Ukraine’s border impact the exercise, and what will it tell us about Russia’s future capabilities and intent along its western border? Finally, what "red flags" should the United States and NATO watch for that might portend a more offensive posture?
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies, CEPA
Michael Kofman, Senior Research Scientist in the Russia Studies Program, CNA
Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President, Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, CSIS; Director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program, CSIS