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Why are the CSTO exercises held in Belarus and what role does our country play in this organization

The joint operational and strategic exercise "Combat Brotherhood-2023" will be held on the territory of Belarus from September 1-6. In the general plan, joint and special exercises are planned, which include the training of various components of the CSTO troops (Collective Forces). The exercises will involve the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force, the CSTO member states armed forces intelligence assets, the CSTO logistic forces, as well as the joint formation of radiation, chemical, biological protection and medical support of the CSTO. The exercises will be held at the training grounds and terrain areas of the Brest, Grodno and Minsk regions. From September 1-6, exercises on ensuring nuclear and radiation safety of the population will be held in the Ostrovets district of Belarus as part of special exercises of the rescue units of the CSTO countries "Skala-2023". Andrei Chernobay, military analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research, told BelTA in an interview why these exercises are being held and what role Belarus plays in the CSTO today.

- Andrei, Belarus, as the country chairing the Collective Security Treaty Organization this year, is hosting a number of CSTO exercises on its territory in September. How important are these exercises for the Organization as a whole and for our country in particular?

- Indeed, the upcoming autumn will be filled with events significant for the CSTO. In September, a joint operational and strategic exercise of troops (Collective Forces) CSTO "Combat Brotherhood - 2023" is held at Belarusian training grounds. In October, Minsk will host a high-level international conference "Eurasian Security: Reality and Prospects in a Transforming World.

The CSTO is a defensive structure, therefore the exercises are aimed exclusively at ensuring collective security. In the course of the conference, it is planned to outline promising security contours in the Eurasian space in the difficult military-political conditions of our time. The outcomes of these events will to a certain extent become an assessment of the effectiveness of Belarus' presidency in the CSTO.

Military exercises have always been considered the highest form of operational and combat training of troops and management bodies, a kind of exam for their participants. It is during the exercises that the combat coherence of the units is checked, various forms and methods of conducting combat operations are worked out, new weapons and equipment are tested. At the upcoming CSTO exercises, all of these elements will also be involved.

It is known that as part of the "Combat Brotherhood-2023" exercise, joint exercises with the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force "Interaction-2023" will be held, as well as a number of special exercises. At each of them, important issues from the point of view of ensuring military security will be worked out. The result will be an increase in the practical skills of military personnel, improving the coordination of the command posts, forces and means in the CSTO joint operation.”

- If such exercises are held annually, does it mean that their list and the issues worked out on them have already become established and have become traditional? Or are some new directions being added?

- The exercise of CSTO forces and means "Interaction", "Search", "Echelon" are held regularly on the territory of all CSTO member states and have already become an integral element of international military cooperation. Belarus has more than once hosted such exercises at its training grounds, their organization and conduct have always been highly assessed by direct participants and observers.

However, the regular nature of the exercises does not mean that they always follow the same scenario, and the same issues are subject to practical training. We see how the nature of modern war, forms and methods of warfare are changing - all this is taken into account when planning exercises. New elements are included, the use of new types of weapons, protection against them, the work of troops and headquarters in changed conditions is worked out.

Security in a broader sense is also subject to transformation. For example, economic and information security have become more relevant in the last decade. The 2020 put biological safety to the fore, which was even reflected in the draft of the updated National Security Concept of the Republic of Belarus. Today, for many States, ensuring military security is a priority.

All these changes affect the nature of the CSTO activities and even lead to the need for new special exercises. In 2022, for the first time, a joint unit of radiation, chemical and biological protection and medical support of the CSTO was involved. This year, responding to current security challenges, the elimination of the consequences of a nuclear facility accident is being worked out at the Skala-2023 exercise.

As we have already noted, the CSTO "Skala-2023" exercises will be held in September. The main objective of the event is to develop skills in eliminating a nuclear facility accident consequences How important is this event? How much is the issue of ensuring nuclear safety increasing in the light of recent events?

- Subject to the CSTO Charter, the goals of the Organization are enhancing peace, international and regional security and stability, and protecting independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the member states on a collective basis. These are quite broad concepts that include not only the formation of a system of collective security in the military sphere, but also work on a number of other areas of security.

This is the combating international terrorism and extremism, organized transnational crime, illegal trafficking in weapons, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, illegal migration. An important area is the protection of the population and territories from natural and man-made emergencies, as well as from the dangers arising during or as a result of military operations.

Using the example of a special military operation in Ukraine, we see how many risks and threats to the population are caused by military actions in industrially developed regions. Today, every city has many industrial enterprises, the destruction of which can lead to man-made disasters, the negative consequences of which people and nature will feel for decades. Of course, nuclear facilities pose the greatest threat in this regard.

Therefore, the issues of ensuring nuclear safety, training rescuers to conduct high complexity rescue operations are relevant for all States. Not coincidentally that the development of skills in eliminating the consequences of a nuclear facility accident, improving interaction between national control centers in crisis situations will be the tasks for the CSTO countries rescue units at "Skala-2023" special exercises.”

-This year, one of the main elements at the CSTO troops exercises in Belarus will be UAV operating and combatting them. Why is there such an interest in this topic and how relevant is it today?

-Indeed, the issues of UAV operating and combatting them have become particularly relevant in recent years. Drones are used not only for striking enemy targets and manpower with various types of ammunition, but also for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, communication, fire correction, cargo delivery, in rescue operations, and for other purposes.

In the post-Soviet space, drones demonstrated themselves most vividly during the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. A new page in the combat use of UAVs has opened with the beginning of a special military operation in Ukraine. Due to its economic efficiency and high firepower, the drone swarm technology is becoming increasingly popular – we already can see the first examples of their application in the course of special military operation.

The drone industry embodies the latest technological achievements in the field of artificial intelligence, has significant prospects for development and practical use not only in the air, but also on the ground, on water and under water. If in 2022 the global drone market was about US$15 billion, then by 2032 experts predict its growth to US$29 billion, i.e., almost twice.

Today, dozens of countries produce hundreds of types of military drones for different purposes. At the same time, the products of only a few key players have received international recognition and won export positions. Belarus is one of the first among the CSTO member states to organize the development and production of own UAVs, anti-drone weapons, and training of specialists. We have good prospects of entering the world market.”

- Within the CSTO, cooperation between the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation is of particular interest to us. What is the role of Belarus and Russia in the CSTO? How important is it for Belarus and Russia to pursue a common defense policy?

- The long-term military and military-technical cooperation between Belarus and Russia in its depth, coverage of various areas and effectiveness is without exaggeration an example for other CSTO member states. The regional grouping of troops (forces), the unified air defense system, cooperation at the level of the military-industrial complexes of the two countries, regular joint exercises are far from a complete list of bilateral cooperation.

Within the CSTO, the area of joint responsibility of Belarus and Russia is the Eastern European Region of Collective Security. If a few years ago attention was more focused on the Caucasus and Central Asia, where the main risks and threats were concentrated, today, due to the negative development of the military-political situation, our region has become the key to ensuring the CSTO collective security.

In such conditions, it is extremely important for our countries to pursue a coordinated, unified defense policy. To this end, in November 2021, the resolution of the Supreme State Council of the Union State adopted the Military Doctrine of the Union State which defined the military-political and military-economic foundations for ensuring military security, the foundations for organizing and ensuring the joint defense of the Union State.

At present, following the decision of the Presidents of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation, the preparation of a draft Security Concept of the Union State has been organized. The immediate developers are the Security Councils of the two countries, representatives of the scientific and expert communities are also actively involved in the work. Military security will be one of the key areas that will be reflected in this document.”