China and Belarus conduct joint military exercises right next to NATO and EU’s border | CNN (2024)

China and Belarus conduct joint military exercises right next to NATO and EU’s border | CNN (1)

Chinese troops are shown arriving in Belarus in this photo provided by the Belarusian Ministry of Defense.

CNN

Belarus and China kicked off 11-day joint military training exercises Monday, Belarus’ defense ministry said – with activities taking place just miles from the border of Poland, a NATO and European Union member.

The joint anti-terrorist training “Attacking Falcon” exercises in Belarus would see military personnel from both countries “act together” as one unit in certain stages, Maj. Gen. Vadim Denisenko of the Belarusian military said in a Telegram post.

“Events in the world are complex, the situation is complex, therefore, having studied new forms and methods of conducting warfare, here we will work out all these moments considering all that is new that has been learnt in the past two years,” Denisenko said.

The joint exercises are being held at a training groundnear thecity of Brest on theBelarus-Poland border and some 40 miles from Belarus’ border with Ukraine. They come as Russia’s invasion of that country more than two years ago has hardened geopolitical divisions and continues to threaten broader regional security.

Beijing and Minsk have tightened their ties in recent years under Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, both autocrats and strong allies of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The start of the anti-terrorism exercises coincided with a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Warsaw, where he signed a security agreement with Polish Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

They also began on the eve of NATO’s 75thanniversarysummit in Washington – a gathering where leaders will look to shore up support for Ukraine.

NATO and the EU have long accused Belarus of weaponizing the border by pushing asylum-seekers from third countries to itsborders, and the joint exercises will no doubt be seen by some as a further provocation. CNN has reached out to NATO for comment.

Belarus has been a critical Russian ally in the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine. Moscow partly used Belarus as a launching pad for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 after amassing troops on the Ukrainian border during what it said were joint military exercises. Last year Putin also announced Russia would place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

China has emerged as a key diplomatic and economic lifeline for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, and been accused by Western leaders of bolstering Moscow’s war effort through the provision of dual use goods – a charge Beijing denies.

Belarus’ Ministry of Defense said troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army arrived inBelarusover the weekend. It published a series of photographs showing Chinese troops offloading equipment from a military cargo aircraft and said the drills will last until July 19.

China’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that the drills would include “hostage rescue operations and counter-terrorism missions.”

“The training aims to enhance the training levels and coordination capabilities of the participating troops, as well as deepen practical cooperation between the armies of the two countries,” it added.

Over the weekend, a delegations from China’s Central Military Commission also held talks with counterparts in Minsk where the two sides discussed “prospects for Belarusian-Chinese cooperation on military personnel training” and outlined new areas of cooperation, according to Belarus’ defense ministry.

This latest showing of their security cooperation comesjust days after Belarus joined the Beijing- and Moscow-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Thursday.

Founded in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to combat terrorism and promote border security, the SCO has grown in recent years as Beijing and Moscow drive a transformation of the bloc from a regional security club with a focus on Central Asia to a geopolitical counterweight to Western institutions led by the United States and its allies.

Belarus’ entry in the bloc – hailed by Xi and Lukashenko in a meeting on the sidelines of an SCO summit in Kazakhstan last week – was widely seen by observers as another mark of that transformation.

Then, Xi hailed the “great strides” in the relationship between the two countries –a sentiment echoed in a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his newly appointed Belarusian counterpart Maksim Ryzhenkov on Monday in Beijing.

Wang and Ryzhenkov agreed that the two sides would “firmly support each other” on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry, which also noted their ambition to “reject unilateral hegemony” – a reference to their shared opposition to a world order they see as dominated by the United States.

CNN’s Mariya Knight and Andee Capellan contributed to this report.

China and Belarus conduct joint military exercises right next to NATO and EU’s border | CNN (2024)

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