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. But no less important is the message these games seek to send to the world: the Russian military, almost three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, is once again a force to be feared. If troops have to redeploy, they travel to Russian exercise areas. This was stated by President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite.
Some Western officials including the head of the U.S. Army in Europe, Gen.
That analogy seems somewhat strained.
The Russian defense ministry must have expected some reaction in Western capitals when it announced a tender for 4,162 railcars to transport troops and equipment for Zapad 2017.
The maneuvers, called Zapad - meaning "West" in Russian - has left neighbouring countries anxious it is a precursor to an invasion and seen North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members accuse Moscow of lying about the size of the drills. For the purposes of the exercise the warring parties are located within real borders of Belarus: the Northerners, which include the Union State of Belarus and Russian Federation, and the Westerners, which are represented by a coalition of interested countries.
In addition to the stated 12,700 troops - around 7,200 from Russian Federation and 5,500 from Belarus - the Zapad exercise will include around 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships, Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda.
Those numbers are still a fraction of what such drills involved during the Cold War.
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But both sides are now creeping back toward those levels. If Russia decides to sustain its enlarged military presence in Belarus, this would increase the pressure on Lukashenko, who in the past has repeatedly asserted that he is not in favor of such a development.
The scenario for the Zapad-2017 exercise is an armed uprising in Belarus by "saboteurs" and "terrorists" backed by a fictitious country called Veishnoria.
Russian Federation and Belarus are set to launch their own Zapad war games on Thursday, which will involve up to 12,700 troops, 70 aircraft, and almost 700 land vehicles.
Hodges and other USA and European officials have stressed that the current exercises are probably just drills.
Russian Federation used the pretence of similar military "snap drills" in its Kavkaz 2008 exercise to disguise the start of its brief war with Georgia.
The operation was launched in April 2014 following the reunification of the Crimean Republic with Russian Federation following a referendum, which the USA and other Western countries refer to as an "annexation".
A shipment of US military equipment has been unloaded at a Baltic Sea port in Poland as Russian Federation prepares to conduct war games across the border in Belarus.