Russia Kicks Off War Games Amid Western Worry

US troops take part in Ukrainian military exercise

US troops take part in Ukrainian military exercise

The large-scale drills, called Zapad (West) 2017, are scheduled to be held from September 14 to 20 around the Baltic Sea, in western Russia, Belarus, and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is closely watching the exercises and says they are larger than the 12,700 servicemen Moscow has publicised, numbering actually some 100,000 troops, and involve firing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Russian Federation and Belarus are set to launch their own Zapad war games on Thursday, which will involve up to 12,700 troops, 70 aircraft, and almost 700 land vehicles.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has warned - while speaking in the country's parliament - that the drills show that Russian Federation is "preparing for an offensive war of continental proportions" and planning "a new assault strike Ukrainian territory".

The Zapad 2017 scenario simulates a situation in which the opposing sides are located within the actual borders of Belarus: on one side, "the Northern", which include the Belarus-Russia Union State, and on the other side "the Western", which represent a coalition of interested states such as Veishnoriya, Vesbariya and Lubeniya.

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

"So we call on Russian Federation to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna Document", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week. Non-NATO member Sweden has made a decision to strengthen its armed forces after spending has fallen to about 1 percent after it accounted for more than two percent of economic output in the early 1990s and began to reintroduce the compulsory recruitment system.

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According to the Kremlin, a key component of the exercise is repelling separatists in Western Belarus, who are supported by fictitious countries; however, since Russian Federation is doing just that in Eastern Ukraine, the drill's intention may not be so defensive after all. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country. The Baltic States and Poland fear that these monikers are just poorly disguised terms for their own countries.

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

There is little concern that Russian Federation might use it to launch a real invasion, but Lithuania's defence minister Raimundas Karoblis, also voiced concern. "Western countries have taken the bait completely", said its Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö in a recent interview, calling Zapad "primarily a propaganda exercise".

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".

But Russia's covert annexation of Crimea in 2014, which was masked by military exercises, has changed perspectives.

Since then, they take place every four years and have been viewed as relatively routine.

"Worries over Zapad are overkill". "So obviously we are closely watching what Russian Federation is doing".

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