“This artificial buffoonery over the routine Zapad 2017 exercises”, he said, “is aimed at justifying the sharp intensification of the NATO bloc [activities] along the perimeter of Russian territory.”Russia has brought suspicion on itself.
It routinely flouts the Vienna Document, an accord designed to avert misunderstandings during war games.
It provided ample opportunity for pundits to engage in hysteria about Russian intentions.
No seasoned NATO official expected the exercise to be the not-so-secret cover for a Russian invasion of the Baltic States – which could easily become the overture to World War III.
Any drill involving more than 9,000 troops requires advance notification of at least 42 days; any exercise involving more than 13,000 troops must be preceded by an invitation to the other 56 participating states to send two observers.By next week, most of the advance elements of the forces taking part in the exercise will have arrived.The rest, expected a fortnight later, will include the First Guards Tank Army, a famous unit from the second world war that was reformed in 2015. Previous Zapads alarmed NATO because of their size and because of the kind of war game they have played out—one in 2009 included a simulated nuclear attack on Warsaw.There is little doubt that Mr Putin sees these not just as a means of honing efficiency, but as a way to intimidate smaller neighbours and eventually draw them into a sphere of Russian influence. A fifth, which began in late February 2014 and deployed large numbers of airborne troops, armoured vehicles and attack helicopters, became the springboard for the occupation of Crimea.Even before he turned to snap drills, Mr Putin used an earlier exercise, Kavkaz 2008, to launch his invasion of Georgia.
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Russia breaks both rules with its snap exercises, and the second with Zapad.