Western officials raise concerns Moscow may use drills as a
Trojan horse to make incursions into Poland and Baltics.
NATO soldiers attend a sniper shooting competition in Rukla,
Lithuania on Wednesday [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]
NATO officials say they are closely watching Russias biggest war
games since 2013 with many unnerved about what they see as Moscow
testing its ability to wage war against the West.
NATO believes the exercises officially starting on Thursday in
Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of
Kaliningrad are already under way. It says they are larger than
Moscow has publicised, numbering some 100,000 troops, and involve
firing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
Codenamed Zapad or West, NATO officials say the drills will
simulate a conflict with the US-led alliance intended to show
Russias ability to mass large numbers of troops at very short
notice in the event of a conflict.
READ MORE: Russia moves nuclear-capable missiles to
Lithuanias Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis voiced widely
felt fears the drills risk triggering an accidental conflict, or
could allow Moscow to leave troops in neighbouring Belarus.
We cant be totally calm. There is a large foreign army massed
next to Lithuanian territory, he told Reuters news agency.
Some Western officials including head of the US Army in Europe,
General Ben Hodges have raised concerns that Russia might use the
drills as a Trojan horse to make incursions into Poland and
Russian-speaking regions in the Baltics.
The Kremlin firmly rejects any such plans. Russia says some
13,000 troops from Russia and Belarus will be involved in the
September 14-20 drills, below an international threshold that
requires large numbers of outside observers.
Moscow says it is the West that threatens stabi...