The UK Defence Intelligence reported that Russia has highly likely canceled the West-2023 joint military drills with Belarus, which were to be held in September 2023.
The UK Defence Ministry believes that the reason for the cancelation was the insufficient number of troops and equipment available for participation in the drills. Also, they note that another reason could be criticism in Russia because of the conduct of such drills during wartime.
We recall that in December last year, the head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, announced the West-2023 drills.
There’s been almost no information about the cancelled West-2023 drills since last year
First, these drills are usually held once every two years alternately in Belarus and Russia. Moreover, they also have two names: in Belarus they are called West, and in Russia — Union Shield.
So, given that in 2021 they held the West-2021 drills, then this year they should have held Union Shield-2023 in Russia, not West-2023 in Belarus.
But where is the information that there will be "unscheduled" West drills from?
From Shoigu. In December last year, he said that he ordered to conduct maneuvers of troops West-2023, and then there was no news. It seems that the propaganda of the Lukashenko regime ignored what he said, because after that there was no mention of the West drills.
In March, the Russian Telegram channel Brief reported that the Russian Defense Ministry’s National Defense Control Center had canceled the West-2023 strategic drills.
What about the Union Shield drills?
As for the Shield drills, it’s a little more logical, but not really clear. Plans for their conduct in 2023 were mentioned back in October 2021.
On November 2, 2022, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said that the Defense Ministries of Belarus and Russia had begun preparations for the Union Shield-2023 drills, which, according to him, “will be the main event of joint training of military administration bodies and troops next year.”
In February 2023, the date of the conduct of the Shield drills was announced — September 22-26, 2023, on the territory of Russia. The last time the Belarusian Ministry of Defense mentioned these drills was March 24, and no reports after that.