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Russia starts military exercises at the NATO border

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 | World News

Moscow and Minsk put themselves in position. For seven days, both countries held a maneuver of superlatives. All for practice, says Russia. But the West responds worried.

Tanks roll over field lanes, combat aircraft climb into the sky, rocket launchers are adjusted. So far, there are few pictures of the controversial Russian-Belarusian "Sapad" (West), which started on Thursday. The Ministry of Defense in Moscow said that the military leadership had received the first instructions for the seven-day exercise in the morning.

In the maneuver they wanted to train on the basis of modern conflicts and train the forces of the two countries, they said. To this end, a scenario was developed in which the Russian and Belarusian forces were fighting together against the three fictitious enemy countries of Weischnoria, Lubenia and Wesbaria.

Particularly the bordering Baltic states and Poland are concerned that a possible attack on the eastern NATO and EU countries should be practiced. The Moscow Ministry appealed that the autumn maneuver served the training of Russian troops and was pure routine. "The exercise has a purely defensive character and is not directed against a state or a group of countries," it said.

About 250 tanks
Each year, a similar scenario is used in another military district, which is named after the region. Last year, an exercise was held in the Caucasus in southern Russia. In the years 2009 and 2013 there were also maneuvers called "Sapad" in the western part of the country.

 According to Moscow, this year's maneuver will take place at six training grounds in Belarus. Around 250 tanks and about 70 aircraft are to be deployed. In addition, tactical maneuvers of the Luftwaffe in Russia are to be rehearsed. According to official figures 12,700 soldiers from both countries are to participate in the large maneuver: 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian soldiers.

Belarusian military vehicles travel through impassable terrain in Belarus. Russia and Belarus are holding a joint troop on the border with the Baltic States and Poland. (Source: dpa)

However, some Western states and NATO are assuming that the actual number of participants could be much higher, and that Moscow and Minsk violate international rules. The number of 12,700 calls Russia to deal with obligations as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

"Great place to stay"
These include, among other things, that OSCE states can provide extensive monitoring in military maneuvers with more than 13,000 soldiers. Even the flying over the maneuver area and discussions with the involved soldiers would be allowed.

That is why the US had already sent seven fighters to Lithuania at the end of August, while US military vehicles were delivered to Poland. "We are now better prepared as we have more deterrence and defense tools in our field, and our partners, our NATO friends are helping us," said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

"The Russian major maneuver is a source of concern," said the EU's vice-president Alexander Graf Lambsdorff. "Russia must return to an external policy that is geared to its own legitimate security needs, not to the insecurity and intimidation of its neighbors," said the FDP politician.

According to CDU politician Franz Josef Jung, Moscow is spearheading threats in the Baltic States and Poland, causing further mistrust in the West. "Russia has no real interest in improving relations with the West and its

As well as the reduction of tensions, "he said.

Muscle games of Nato
The current maneuvers are a new chapter in the mutual saber rattling between NATO and Russia. NATO has been deterring Russia since 2016. Thus, the military alliance strengthened its "presence" in the Baltic States and Poland and also held joint maneuvers on the border with Russia. The battalion in Lithuania is under the leadership of the Bundeswehr. Since the war in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea, the relationship between Russia and NATO has deteriorated considerably.

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