Russia holds large-scale exercises are held every four years - since 1999 - and rotate through four operational strategic commands of the Russian Armed Forces (Western, Eastern, Caucus and Central).
The upcoming Zapad-17 exercise, which will take place in Belarus, Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea, and western Russia, may feature further escalation of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air space violations by the Russians, intentional or otherwise. Interestingly, invitations to 80 observers from Western and former Warsaw nations, including NATO, OSCE as well as all the diplomats serving in Balarus have been extended to watch the exercise but still alarm bells are being sounded that the exercise is threat to existence of neighbouring countries.
Even so, he adds, the opposition in Belarus is anxious that the exercises "could be a Trojan Horse for bringing in Russian troops and equipment, and that they simply won't leave afterwards".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed claims of insufficient transparency of the ongoing Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 military drills as a provocation. That is just below the level at which Russian Federation and Belarus would be required under an worldwide convention to invite Western observers. It says they are larger than Moscow has publicized, numbering some 100,000 troops, and involve firing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
A Russian T-90 tank fires in Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow during the first day of the "Army 2017" International Military-Technical Forum, Aug. 22, 2017.more +.More news: Barrasso: Sanders' Healthcare Plan 'a Nice Slogan,' But a Bad Idea
"The drill is a threat to us, no matter what Russian Federation says", he told Polish TV.
According to the Times, Zapad-2017 "is the latest iteration of a series of training maneuvers that began under the Soviet Union in the 1970s" and were revived in 1999 and expanded under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some Western officials including the head of the U.S. Army in Europe, Gen. "History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russian Federation", she added.
Hodges and other USA and European officials have stressed that the current exercises are probably just drills.
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Russia and Belarus say the exercises, which run until September 20, involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops.
Others have expressed fears the exercise could be a cover a massive - and permanent - re-positioning of Russian troops, and possibly even a takeover of the pro-Moscow ally itself.
Russian Federation has claimed that the exercise, which is being conducted in cooperation with the army of Belarus, will include no more than 13,000 troops. And this all comes against the background of Russia's annexation of Crimea three years ago, and its continuing military presence in Ukraine.
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