Today, Moscow kicked off its controversial, week-long “Zapad-2017” drill, the latest iteration of a series of training maneuvers that began under the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and which has angered and put NATO and Baltic States leaders on edge. Land, sea and air units will be taking part in war games until the 21st of September across a huge area encompassing western Russia, Belarus, the Baltic Sea and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
After a long break following the collapse of communism, Zapad, or “west” in Russian, was revived in 1999 and then was expanded after Vladimir Putin became president at the end of that year. Previous versions were held in 2009 and 2013. Moscow says fewer than 13,000 troops are participating – the threshold for inviting international observers – but NATO members believe as many as 100,000 troops will be involved in the drills. That would make this year’s drill the biggest display of Russian military power since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago.
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