Defense Ministry rejects claims of war games threat to western neighbors

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 29, 2017

Russian Federation tried to calm fears over war games it plans to hold next month, saying on Tuesday (Aug 29) the large-scale exercise would rehearse a purely defensive scenario and that allegations it was a springboard to invade Poland, Lithuania or Ukraine were false.

"As well as its anti-terrorist backdrop, the Zapad-2017 exercise is of a purely defensive nature", said Mr Fomin, who said the drills were routine and conducted with ally Belarus every two years.

"For several months major mass media outlets around the world have been disturbing the public with myths about the Russian military threat". Politicians followed suit. They invent the most unbelievable ways for the events to develop, some even allege that Zapad-2017 could become a launchpad for a future attack with subsequent occupation of Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine.

And Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has warned that "substantially more" troops may take part than will be officially divulged, said last week the alliance would be watching closely.

On Friday, Stoltenberg urged the Kremlin to ensure transparency and predictability during the exercises, warning that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "would be watching very closely".

The exercises next month in western Russia, Belarus, and the western Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, have deeply anxious neighbouring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, with Lithuania claiming that as many as 100,000 troops could attend.

"The number of troops and military equipment expected to be involved in the drills is less than the number subjected to mandatory monitoring in accordance the 2011 Vienna document", the Russian deputy defense minister said.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the US Army's top general in Europe, told Reuters last month that US allies in eastern Europe and Ukraine were anxious the exercises could be a "Trojan horse" aimed at leaving behind military equipment brought into Belarus.

"Despite the fact that the main part (of the drills) are to be held on Belarusian territory, the scenario assumes an artificial enemy, which has nothing to do with any specific region", he added.

In the two-stage event from 14 to 20 September, the armed forces of Russian Federation and Belarus will first "isolate areas where illegal armed groups and the enemy's sabotage-reconnaissance groups are active", he said.

Fomin told the press that both Russian Federation and Belarus had duly warned OSCE member states about the plans to hold joint military exercises, and had invited global monitors to the event.

The war games' scenario is that "extremist groups" have infiltrated Russian Federation and Belarus and are planning "acts of terrorism" while receiving "outside support" from the air and sea.

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