In September, Russia held extensive military exercises that included the use of both Russian and Belarusian military forces. The drills were scheduled to last for at least a week.
On December 19, German newspaper BILD reported that two NATO member intelligence sources had claimed the September drills were a “dry run” for a “full-scale conventional war against NATO in Europe.”
BILD had no official confirmation of the claim until recently when it ran an interview with Estonian General Riho Terras, who confirmed the accusations that Russia had “simulated a large-scale military attack against NATO.” Terras is the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces.
Aside from Belarus, the drills were also held in the Baltic Sea, western Russia, and Russia’s outpost at Kaliningrad. The Independent notes that according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the drills were intended to depict a fictional scenario concerned with attacks by militants.
However, according to Terras, Russia lied about the nature of their military exercises.
“Let me be clear: with the exercise Zapad 2017, Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato,” Terras said.
“It was not targeted towards the Baltic states only, as it was a theater-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea.”
He also added that “The scale and extent of the entire exercise was far greater than officially stated.”
According to BILD, the drills involved far more troops than the 12,700 Russia initially claimed. BILD’s sources told the newspaper another 12,000 Russian soldiers had taken part in exercises near Estonia’s borders and more than 10,000 had participated in the area near the north of Finland and Norway.
Due to a legal obligation established in the Vienna document, a Cold War-era treaty that lays out the rules of military exercises, drills featuring more than 13,000 soldiers should be open to observers who can fly over and interview soldiers. According to the Independent, NATO sent one expert to a visitor day in Russia and two to a visitor day in Belarus.
At the time, NATO sounded the alarm over accusations that Russia was practicing war games with far more troops than it had originally let on.
“The number of troops participating in the exercises significantly exceeded the number announced before the exercise – the scenario was a different one and the geographical scope was larger than previously announced,” NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg last year.
All that being said, if the media were honest, we would see a discussion of the following issues: NATO exists as an entity solely to confront Russia, it has physically invaded countries under questionable legal circumstances on multiple occasions, and it holds military drills of its own all the time. An underreported military drill last year involved a whopping 19,000 Swedish troops, 1,435 soldiers from the U.S., 270 from Finland, 120 from France, and a handful of others from Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, and Estonia. Sweden is not even formally a part of NATO yet.
These troops aren’t practicing war for the sake of it – the target of these drills is Russia, and that is no secret.
Most importantly, as the National Interest recently learned, Russia is mainly concerned with threats to its security due to the fact that recently declassified documents prove Russia was, indeed, duped and tricked out of a promise by the U.S. that NATO would expand “not one inch eastward” in the early 1990s.
“The [recently declassified] documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991,” George Washington University National Security Archives researchers Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton wrote in the National Security Archives, “That discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.”
Maybe Russia really is simulating an invasion of a number of NATO allies encroaching upon its border, but it should be relatively clear to us why it might feel compelled to do so given a number of countries surrounded it with American troops and missiles even after Russia was assured this would never happen.
Darius Shahtahmasebi has completed a Double Degree in Law and Japanese from the University of Otago, with an interest in human rights, international law and journalism. He’s a fully qualified lawyer in two separate jurisdictions, and writes about foreign policy for Anti-Media.
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