Russia is increasing its international isolation by organizing its Zapad 2017 military exercise, preventing de-escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West, European Parliament member Artis Pabriks (Unity) believes.
Representatives of the Latvian MEP told LETA that Zapad 2017, in Pabriks’ opinion, can exacerbate the situation also inside Russia and that the following weeks will show whether the divide between Russia and the rest of the world widens even further.
“Russia, of course, can try to prove that it can be trusted and that the drills are not intended to practice attacking or occupying a neighbor country. Yet the exercise’s aggressive character causes concerns that Russia’s rhetoric, unfortunately, is yet again inconsistent with its actual intentions,” said Pabriks.
The Latvian MEP also believes that in the context of the upcoming Zapad exercise it is important to take into consideration political developments elsewhere in the world, for instance, the parliamentary election Germany is due to hold at the end of September. If Russia demonstrates aggression, this can increase anti-Kremlin sentiments in Germany, which in turn would affect German-Russian political and economic relations. Consequently, with its attempts to intimidate neighbors and Europe, Russia might harm its own interests.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has been stepping up propaganda about the West as Russia’s main external enemy. By stoking such sentiments, Russia dangerously increases domestic demand for maintaining a belligerent stance also in the future.
“In this way, the Kremlin is driving itself in even greater isolation, where it will have even less maneuvering opportunities and less possibilities to back down from this position. The consequences of such policies increase the risk of Russia becoming like North Korea which lives in isolation and militarily blackmails its neighbors, and I do not believe this is what people in Russia want,” Pabriks said.
Russia and Belarus are due to hold the active phase of their joint military exercise Zapad 2017 from September 14 to 20.