Russia's large-scale Zapad war games unnerve the West

Estonia to send observers to Zapad exercise

Russian and Belarusian tanks, jets, artillery, and infantry have begun surging toward European Union borders in a massive war game that is taking place amid genuine Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

The US military commander in Europe, Lt General Ben Hodges, echoed such concerns in an interview this summer, admitting that: "people are anxious this is a Trojan horse".

Moscow says that the drills will involve 12,700 soldiers, 70 aircraft, 250 tanks and ten battleships fighting an imaginary enemy near borders with the Baltic States and Poland.

Despite NATO countries taking part in the massive Swedish drills - some of which are again taking place near Kaliningrad - the alliance has no problem slamming Russian Federation for conducting a much smaller exercise with Belarus.

In a July statement, the Swedish Armed Forces wrote that "several other countries" had been invited to take part in the exercise to enhance "Sweden's defense capability against a larger, sophisticated opponent", in what appeared to be a reference to Russian Federation.

The exercises that Russian Federation is conducting with its Eastern European ally, Belarus, have attracted intense attention amid nervousness over Moscow's recent military adventures and its tensions with the West. Western analysts say the figure of 100,000 personnel taking part in Zapad comes from aggregating all these drills.

Troops from non-NATO Finland will also attend along with NATO soldiers from Denmark, Norway, France, Estonia, Lithuania and the United States.

But for Danish defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, speaking on Danish radio on Thursday, the drill was created to "intimidate the Baltic states".




The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 began on 14 September to end on 20 September.

The worry over the exercises underlines the suspicions over Russian military intentions since its invasion of Ukraine three years ago.

"We can't be totally calm". There is a large foreign army massed next to Lithuanian territory, ' he told Reuters this week.

The danger has increased "This is part of a pattern, which we've seen developed over several years with a more asserted Russian Federation, a Russia which has tripled defense spending over the last years, which is using force against neighbors and which is exercising much more modern capabilities in a more aggressive way", Stoltenberg said.

The equipment deployment comes just two days after Sweden launched its biggest military drills in 23 years, with several North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries also taking part.

"Russia is still very, very unpredictable, and it has proved this unpredictability with its activities in occupying Crimea, Ukraine, and Georgia", she said. "History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russian Federation", she added.

There is an information war going on for public opinion in NATO-member states too, with Western governments keen to bolster their case for increasing military spending to counter a resurgent Russian military.

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