Russian troops wargame invasion of Europe for political gain
2013-09-30 0:00

By Mark Galeotti | Blouin Beat

Every two years, Russia holds massive military exercises in its north-western territories that open a window onto its strategic thinking and combat capabilities. September’s demonstrated both a growing aggression in Russian military posture, as well as an underlying strategy to keep the West off-balance.

The latest of these Zapad (“West”) exercises were amongst the biggest yet, a six-day event running until September 26 involving ground, air and sea forces from Russia and its ally Belarus. The exercises were run in Belarus, near the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian borders, and in Russia’s Kaliningrad territory, between Poland and Lithuania.

Zapad-2013 was officially described as a joint Russian-Belarusian exercise meant to prepare forces “to ensure security of the Union State” and to rehearse the “interoperability of command staffs.” Furthermore, it was supposedly anchored around a “counter-terrorist operation,” against “illegal armed groups,” its real purpose was to simulate a war triggered by a “deterioration of relations between states due to inter-ethnic, and ethno-religious controversies, and territorial claims.”

As the deployment of tanks, warships and long-range missiles, and marine landings on hostile shores demonstrated, this was really about wargaming a full-scale military conflict against a near-neighbor with whom Russia has long grievances. It is hardly surprising that the Baltic states, who have Russian minorities which Moscow in the past has used as a pretext for leverage, have expressed their dismay.


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