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. The computer simulation war game exercises were denounced as a provocation from North Korea.
The exercises will last until September 20. It also serves to validate aspects of the Ukraine’s military training program.
Despite assurances from Minsk and Moscow, the Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers have caused concern in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The Zapad 2017 drills are scheduled to run until September 20 in Belarus as well as on the Baltic Sea, in western Russian Federation, and in Russia’s Kaliningrad region, close to the Polish border and those of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“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.
Russian officials have said that only 13,000 troops will participate but western observers have said that as many as 100,000 Russian and Belorussian forces could be involved.
“In response to this uncertainty, the U.S. has built a joint, persistent rotational presence of air, land, and sea presence in the region to support our Allies”, she added.