Riga should not exaggerate potential threats from the upcoming Russian-Belarusian military drills West-2017 due in September, Latvia’s Ambassador to Russia Maris Riekstins said on Thursday.
“This is not the first such exercise of Russia and Belarus conducted near our borders. Over the past six years, several such drills have been carried out. I think we should not exaggerate fears over them. We should be vigilant, but do not need to be hysterical,” the ambassador told national television.
Riekstins called the invitations of Russia and Belarus to send Latvia’s monitors to the drills a positive gesture. He noted however that the republic wants these maneuvers to be more transparent. “There is nothing unusual or outstanding about this exercise. Each country, including Belarus, Russia or Latvia, has a right to develop its defensive capacity by carrying out these drills. What we want is to have more transparency,” the ambassador said.
Earlier, Latvia received an official invitation from Moscow and Minsk to send three its monitors to the drills. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics voiced concerns over possible provocations during the exercise. President Raimonds Vejonis said the maneuvers create additional tensions in the region, but pose no direct military threat to Latvia and other Baltic states. Meanwhile, Latvia’s State Police announced plans to step up security and called on organizers not to carry out games with military simulation.
The joint strategic exercise West-2017 is scheduled for September 14-20. Some 12,700 troops and 680 pieces of military equipment are expected to take part. Some Western countries have expressed concerns over the upcoming maneuvers. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin earlier said the reports of an alleged ‘Russian threat’ in the wake of West-2017 military exercises have nothing to do with reality. He insisted that the drills are purely defensive in nature.