Russia Kicks Off War Games Amid Western Worry

15 September, 2017, 00:53 | Author: Clint Gray
  • US troops take part in Ukrainian military exercise

The weeklong Zapad (West) 2017 exercise, to be staged in Belarus and parts of western Russian Federation, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops, according to Minsk and Moscow.

The main goal is to integrate the two countries' military headquarters in a realistic combat scenario.

Russian Federation has today kicked off its controversial week-long war games in Belarus and the Baltic, involving thousands of troops and military vehicles.

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.

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"This has been overhyped by the Western media", says Vladimir Frolov, an independent Russian foreign policy analyst in Moscow. 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.

Russian Federation has clearly demonstrated during various snap exercises over the past several years that it can move large forces at long distances, so it would be hard to argue that additional bases in Belarus are imperative to ensure Russia's ability to project power in the West.

"Command points have been set up and fully-functioning command systems created", Belokonev told journalists at a press conference in Minsk, the capital.

Jens Stoltenberg, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general, also warned that Russia's lack of transparency "increases the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculations, accidents and incidents that can become dangerous".

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Russian Federation says some 13,000 troops from Russian Federation and Belarus will be involved in the September 14-20 drills, below an global threshold that requires large numbers of outside observers.

"The degree of mobilization is really impressive", Soloch said on private Radio Zet.

For some, that sounds uncomfortably like rehearsing a pretext for NATO's nightmare scenario, a Russian tank rush into the Baltic States. And this all comes against the background of Russia's annexation of Crimea three years ago, and its continuing military presence in Ukraine.

The scenario for the Zapad-2017 exercise is an armed uprising in Belarus by "saboteurs" and "terrorists" backed by a fictitious country called Veishnoria.

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Meanwhile, Oleg Voinov, an advisor to Belarus' defense ministry sought to calm tensions, saying the exercises "are not threatening anyone". "We have chosen military bases that are significantly removed from the borders with Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia". Since then, they take place every four years and have been viewed as relatively routine. Russian Federation says they will simulate assaults by "extremist groups" trying to carry out "terrorist attacks".



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