BRUSSELS, July 24 (Itar-Tass) - NATO countries are interested in sending observers to the Russian-Belarusian military drills Zapad-2013 due in September, a diplomatic source in the Brussels mission of one of the NATO countries told Itar-Tass ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. The meeting will be dedicated to issues of transparency and building up mutual trust.
The words came in comment of the pronouncement of Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Anatoly Antonov about plans to invite Western observers.
Such an invitation will be a concrete step to enhance mutual understanding, the source said and added that so far NATO has received no invitation.
Later on Wednesday, Antonov and deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Alexander Postnikov will hold a briefing to inform military representatives from 28 NATO member states about the Zapad-2013 exercises. Apart from that, they will reports about the results of a recent surprise inspection of Russian army units in the Far Eastern federal district.
Earlier, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Itar-Tass that the alliance had already invited Russian observers to similar strategic drills Steadfast Jazz to be staged in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland in November. It will be the biggest NATO exercises in the region in the past ten years.
According to Rasmussen, the goal of the drills is to check combat readiness and coordination between NATO armed forces. These drills, he stressed, are not aimed against anyone that is why they are absolutely transparent for Russia. NATO, in his words, wants similar degree of transparency from Russia as far as its Zapad-2013 drills are concerned. He stressed that the mere fact of such drills in Russia and in NATO “is not a problem,” since the military must drill their skills in any way. The question is not in the exercises as such but in the exchange of exhaustive information about them.
The Zapad-2013 military exercises in September will involve about 13,000 Russian and Belarusian servicemen, including 2,500 from Russia and 10,400 from Belarus, about 60 helicopters and aircraft and up to 250 combat vehicles. The exercises would take place in the territories of Belarus and Russia’s Western Military District as well as in the water areas of the Barents and Baltic Seas.