Kremlin Considers 'Wave of Hysteria' Over Russia-Belarus Drills 'Provocation'

Brandon Parsons
September 15, 2017

Between September 14 and 20, Russian Federation will execute one of its biggest military exercises since the end of the Cold War.

The M1 Abrams main battle tanks and supporting armoured vehicles of the 2nd Armoured Brigade Combat Team docked in the north of the country overnight to bolster Nato forces along Russia's border. They say Russian Federation could use the occasion to position a large, permanent contingent of troops in Belarus, leaving the country at the mercy of any armed confrontation involving Moscow.

Michael Kofman with the Center for Naval Analyses said at the briefing that the joint exercises will not only show the nuts and bolts of Russia's troop placement, but also Russia's ability to intervene on Belarus' behalf if it is threatened. Its forces are linking up with Belarusian troops for a war game where they pacify a separatist movement in western Belarus, near the border with NATO-member Poland.

Moscow has dismissed fears over the drills - the latest in a series of annual exercises that rotate around the vast country - as fuelled by the "myth about the so-called "Russian threat".

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said "we should not succumb to intimidation", describing Zapad as an attempt to make the Baltic states feel insecure.

"We have seen before that Russian Federation has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours", Stoltenberg said.

"Atlantic Resolve demonstrates the United States commitment to the security of NATO allies on air, land and at sea".

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.

"Therefore, before this period and after activity increased", - said Grybauskaite.

All of it "nonsense", according to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who slammed claims that it was planning to leave troops behind in Belarus.

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.

"It is all smoke and mirrors", the official said, adding the Soviet-era Zapad exercises that were revived in 1999 had included simulated nuclear strikes on Europe.

Moscow officials said the exercises are in no way meant to stage attacks on other places and that the West was "whipping up hysteria" over the drills, Reuters reported. 12,700 troops will take part in the maneuvers.

All the designated units of the Russian army have arrived in Belarus for the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017.

Minsk has said the games will role play a conflict with a made-up rebel region backed by neighbouring European nations.

Military expert Alexander Golts said Moscow "very skillfully manipulates the figures for such drills because it does not want to have to invite foreign observers". Russian Federation has said that some 12,700 troops will be involved but the actual figure is not certain.

As for the Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017 (West-2017) that are to kick off on Thursday, they are of purely defense nature, he stressed.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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