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Annual Russian-Belarusian-Serbian tactical exercise begins


Annual Russian-Belarusian-Serbian tactical exercise begins

Photo: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

Slavic Brotherhood 2021—trilateral Russian, Belarusian and Serbian tactical military exercises—will begin today in Novorossiysk, Russia.

The drills are intended to develop capabilities including live firing accuracy and management of personnel landings. Held annually since 2015, the exercises expanded considerably last September. Planned as small-scale drills with 1,500 soldiers slated to participate, Slavic Brotherhood 2020 ultimately involved 6,000 Russian and Belarusian service-members. The drills followed Russia’s affirmation of support for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Such support came amidst widespread Western condemnation of Lukashenko for refusing to leave office following Belarus’ 2020 election.

Serbia, historically included in the drills, withdrew in 2020 citing pressure from EU officials related to Belarus. Nevertheless, Serbia maintains security ties to Russia, which backs its non-recognition of Kosovo.

Expect Russia to use today’s exercises to demonstrate increasing military integration with Belarus and drive division between Serbia and the EU. Given Belarus’ political isolation, Russia will likely obtain permission to develop military bases in Belarus in the near-term. Moscow is further expected to use growing interoperability with Belarus’ military to further its union, while its continuing partnership with Belgrade will likely hinder Serbia’s chances for EU accession and help maintain the country’s relatively pro-Russian political environment.

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