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Russia Kicks Off War Games Amid Western Worry

15 September, 2017, 00:40 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • On Monday Belarusian army vehicles prepare for war games at an undisclosed location in Belarus

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation believes the exercises - officially starting on Thursday in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad - are already under way.

"The Zapad" exercise, jointly organized by Russian Federation and Belarus have already started, from 14 to 20 September 2017, in which T-14 Armata tanks and advanced air defense and electronic warfare equipment would be used for the first time.

According to Belarus and Russian Federation, the exercise involves 12,700 soldiers and 250 tanks, as well as 200 pieces of artillery, 70 planes and helicopters and 10 warships on the borders of the Baltic states, Finland, and Poland. And depending on how aggressive a signal Russian Federation wants to send, it could choose to forgo the nuclear part of the exercises with this year's target: the fictional country of Veishnoriya, supposedly backed by the West and in coalition with two other fake nations of Lubeniya and Vesbasriya. International observers suggest that the invented countries are proxies for the Baltic States and Poland.

The most recent Zapad exercises, which occur every few years, took place in 2013, just before Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. After these military preparations many troops stayed in the area to participate in the subsequent war with Ukraine.

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said "we should not succumb to intimidation", describing Zapad as an attempt to make the Baltic states feel insecure. A total of 10,200 military personnel will take part in the drills: 7,000 Belarusian troops and 3,000 Russian servicemen. "And I am sure that we will restore our relationship with NATO and we will return to the wonderful form of cooperation that is the Russia-NATO Council".

Moscow has held a stream of exercises since ties with the West plunged in 2014 over Ukraine, with the military claiming some drills included almost 100,000 troops.




Perhaps the most plausible scenario worrying Western military planners is that the thousands of Russian troops moving into Belarus for the exercises will never go home.

Tensions between Moscow and the West have spiraled since Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and Ukraine is among the nations anxious Zapad 2017 could lead to further landgrabs.

NATO has been critical about how transparent Moscow has been about Zapad 2017, saying it has failed to adhere to global treaties by not allowing observers to monitor the exercise to ensure that it is not a cover for an aggressive military operation.

Moscow has insisted that the long-planned drills, which it is calling Zapad 2017, are defensive and relatively small, involving only around 12,000 troops. "History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russian Federation", she added. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country.

But military analysts on both sides say the figures were misunderstood, and that the number of troops Russian Federation claims to have sent west do stack up.

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