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Russian-Belarusian war games start, neighbours anxious

Russian-Belarusian war games start, neighbours anxious”

"Although, Russian's expansionist apprehensions have been neutralized by Belarusian Defence Minister Andrei Ravkov, who confirmed that the joint military exercise will be defensive by nature but Western nations have been warned by United States commanders that the Zapad exercise" is a rehearsal to invade Ukraine and many European countries with an aim to share a common border with between Europe and Russia.

That would put the drill below levels that oblige Russian Federation to invite military observers in large numbers from neighbouring states under a treaty called the Vienna Document, with Nato invited to send just three monitors and with a handful of military attaches from Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, and Norway to also take part. Ben Hodges, who leads U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters that "people are anxious this is a Trojan horse". "The danger of incidents or accidents has increased because there are more troops, more military forces along our borders, there are more exercises, and that's exactly why we are so focused on transparency, predictability", NATO's chief added.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other nations and open the maneuvers to observers.

The Zapad drills, Russia's premier military exercises, have begun.

Called Zapad 2017, the drill is meant to repel an attack by a fictional state, Veishnoriya, and two fictional allies, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya, that look a bit like North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which now host around 3,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops as part of the alliance's Russian Federation deterrent force.

The US has assumed command of airspace over the Baltic countries as a precaution and Ukraine has put its armed forces on alert.

But NATO has deliberately taken a slow approach to its military build-up to avoid being sucked into a new arms race, even as Russian Federation has stationed anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles in Kaliningrad, the Black Sea and Syria. But a 40,000-strong force agreed in 2015 is still being developed, officials say.

NATO, however, believes - without evidence - that more troops will be involved.

Sweden, like the Baltics, Poland and much of the West, has been deeply troubled by Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"Russia is the country that affects security in Europe right now with its actions - the annexation of the Crimea and continued battles in eastern Ukraine - so it is clear that we are watching very closely what Russian Federation is doing", Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Byden said, as reported by Reuters.

But many Western experts say that Russian exercises are often used to disguise other objectives.

NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Everard said there was no need to mirror Zapad.



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