Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation concerned about Russia's transparency on military manoeuvres Zapad

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation concerned about Russia's transparency on military manoeuvres Zapad

Russian Federation on Thursday kicked off a week of war games with its ally Belarus that have the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation neighbours watching anxiously, as Moscow seeks to cement possible political fissures in the Kremlin's own orbit.

But Nato claims Russian Federation has kept it in the dark and seems to be massively under-reporting the scale of the exercises, which some of the alliance's eastern members insist could see more than 100,000 servicemen take part.

Russia-West relations have hit their lowest point since the Cold War following Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and continuing fighting between Russian-backed separatists and troops loyal to Kyiv in eastern Ukraine.

Official figures from the Russian defence ministry say around 12,700 troops will be deployed in total, including 5,500 Russian personnel and 7,200 Belarussian soldiers.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said its biggest exercise this year, codenamed Trident Javelin 17, planned to run from 8-17 November, would involve only 3,000 troops.

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, formally notified North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of the beginning of the exercises on Thursday evening, according to Russian media.

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

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Organizers have invented three "aggressor countries" - Veishnoriya, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya - to whose attacks the Russian and Belarusian militaries will simulate a response.

Earlier this week Jens Stoltenberg, NATO general secretary, said Russian Federation has every right to hold drills, but accused it of using "loopholes" to avoid scrutiny. The Baltic States and Poland fear that these monikers are just poorly disguised terms for their own countries.

The joint exercise is taking place in the territory of both Belarus and Russian Federation, but the main maneuvers are deployed in six areas of Belarus.

"All together, what we see is a serious preparation for big war", he told The Associated Press. The Soviet-led Warsaw Pact once used the Zapad exercises to prepare for potential war with the West.

"We are not threatening anyone", Oleg Voinov, an adviser to the Belarusian Defense Minister, told journalists Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may visit one of the stages of these drills, he said. Russian Federation had leased a naval base in Crimea from Ukraine prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly take over the Black Sea peninsula.

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