Russian Federation begins war games 'eyeing Nato'

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As for the Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017 (West-2017) that are to kick off on Thursday, they are of purely defense nature, he stressed.

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.

'We can't be totally calm. "There is a large foreign army massed next to Lithuanian territory", he told Reuters news agency.

The Kremlin firmly rejects any such plans.

Russian Federation has rejected NATO's claims that tens of thousands of troops will take part in its current war games, insisting that it will be abide by the so-called Vienna Document requiring that any exercise involving more than 13,000 troops be open to observers. "History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russian Federation", she added. What's more, the exercises will likely be used to covertly increase Moscow's military presence in both Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The main objectives of the drills are to improve the interaction of staffs of the armed forces of the two countries and their command and control systems, as well as to provide commanders of all levels with experience of military planning and managing troops in the conditions of modern armed conflicts, the ministry said in a statement.

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At Russia's invitation, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is sending three experts to monitor a small portion of the exercise, but allies say that invitation falls short of full transparency as laid out by global regulations known as the Vienna document, which allows for briefings on exercise scenarios, overflights and opportunities to talk with individual soldiers.

As a precaution, the USA military has moved 600 paratroopers to the Baltics during Zapad and has taken over guardianship of the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which lack capable air forces and air defence systems.

NATO, a 29-nation defence pact created in 1949 to deter the Soviet threat, has already begun its biggest modernisation since the Cold War, sending four battalions to the Baltics and Poland, setting up an agile, high-readiness spearhead force, and developing its cyberspace defences. "We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation".

During Zapad, NATO is taking a low-key approach by running few exercises, including an annual sniper exercise in Lithuania.

"The security situation has taken a turn for the worse", Byden said. Sweden, such as the Baltic states, Poland and many Western countries, has been deeply concerned by Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea in the Black Sea in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas inflated the numbers to as many as 100,000 Russian soldiers, supposedly to be mobilized during the exercise - a belief which has also been voiced by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

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