Interesting rundown of Zapad 2017 by Anna Maria Dyner from the Polish Institute of International Affairs. It is interesting that Russia and Belarus use fictional adversaries but real geography for their own side. This seems like a good approach compared to the rather artificial scenarios you sometimes see at NATO exercises where participants end up spending unreasonable amounts of time trying to figure out the dynamics of the scenario.
This part of Dyner’s analysis is too politicized, though:
This year’s scenario shows that Belarusian military leaders, like the Russians, see NATO as the main threat. This proves there is a difference between the thinking and the military doctrine adopted in 2016 that stressed that Belarus does not treat any state as an opponent. At the same time, the exercises plan proves the weaknesses of Belarus, whose authorities, even at a rhetorical level, do not assume Belarus can defend its territory by itself and that support from Russia is crucial. It also indirectly confirms that Russia de facto holds military control over Belarus.
This kind of lightweight finger-pointing makes nobody smarter. Substitute “Poland” for “Belarus” and “USA” for “Russia”, and the same statement would make sense. If anything, this shows that the Belarusian authorities have a realistic understanding of their military circumstances.