Union Shield 2019, the Russian military exercise held in mid-September, was a combined training of Russian and Belarusian armed forces. It is touted by Russia as the “main combat training event for the year.” Characterized by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as “solely of a defensive nature,” Union Shield is meant to strengthen the interoperability of Russian and Belarusian armed forces. With increased rumblings in recent months about the potential for a closer political union between Russia and Belarus, Western observers are watching Union Shield 2019 as an indicator of Moscow's larger strategy toward Minsk.

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