February 21, 2018

Belarusian Foreign Ministry briefs foreign diplomats on West-2017 exercise

15 September 2017, 12:54 | Rex Hubbard

Russia, Belarus To Kick Off Military Exercises Amid Tensions With West

Russia begins large scale Zapad 2017 military exercise in Belarus

Amid icy relations with the U.S., Russian Federation launched joint military exercises with Belarus on Thursday in what outsiders are hoping provide clues to Russia's current firepower and agility. The computer simulation war game exercises were denounced as a provocation from North Korea.

Compared to the U.S, Russian Federation is still a military underdog, and the fact that Belarus is its only partner in these exercises goes to show how Moscow's network of alliances has withered since Soviet times.

Russian Federation and Belarus plan to practice amassing troops in a scenario that pits them against terrorists infiltrating their borders from three different countries. But no less important is the message these games seek to send to the world: the Russian military, almost three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, is once again a force to be feared. There were much confusion as the American commanders, who projected the exercise as preparation to fight against terrorists in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, while European senior Army commanders and their troops believed it was an updated rehearsal of tactics and strategies once used to counter Soviet troops, using amour and artillery leading to aerial assaults by hundreds of paratroopers to occupy target country.

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.

American troops were deployed to bases across Poland this year on a rotating basis as reassurance amid Russia's increased military activity.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

How many troops are participating?

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The Zapad drills, Russia's premier military exercises, have begun.

That would put the drill below levels that oblige Russian Federation to invite military observers in large numbers from neighbouring states under a treaty called the Vienna Document, with Nato invited to send just three monitors and with a handful of military attaches from Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, and Norway to also take part.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, summed up the concerns to Reuters in July: "People are anxious this is a Trojan horse".

They are there to emphasise Nato's determination to defend its allies - and Russia's closest Western neighbours.

If Russia was planning a major offensive move, one might expect to see elements of its powerful Northern Fleet joining in the exercise.

Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told the German Deutsche Welle television station that the Zapad drills, named after the Russian word for West, do not pose a threat to Europe. "But I am sure that very soon, there will also be a future", he said.

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