Belarusian authoritarian President Aleksandr Lukashenko pledges to prepare a joint response with Russia to NATO's major drills in Europe, which should take place next year.
"For some reason NATO has decided to arrange a large-scale military exercise near our borders virtually in several months. Thousands of personnel will be deployed on a never-before-seen scale in Poland and Baltic states," state news agency BELTA quoted Lukashenko as saying during the CIS summit in Ashgabat on October 11.
"It is abnormal. It does not mean peace has come to Europe and no trouble spots like that will emerge in the future. It is an incomprehensible exercise. The president of Russia and I may have to think about ways to ensure our security in this period. Because the exercise will involve about 30,000 people [NATO troops]. It is a lot."
Lukashenko said that a joint military force exists within the framework of the so-called Union State of Belarus and Russia. "We will have to respond in some way. [...] "We didn't make the first step. We have to respond."
Lukashenko, a close ally of the Kremlin, is known for his anti-NATO rhetoric. In February, he said that Belarus is going to consider a joint response with Russia if the US deploys new intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. The statement appeared against a background of an escalating Russia-US dispute over the INF Treaty, which limits short-range missiles in Europe.