NATO Says Sending Three Monitors To Russian War Games, Seeks Greater Access

Trevor Jackson
August 31, 2017

NATO plans to send two experts to attend Russia-Belarus joint military exercises Zapad-2017 (West-2017), slated for September 14-20, NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told Sputnik Wednesday.

The US has made a decision to increase the security of its allies, Lithuania, Latvia, and #Estonia.

She called on Russian Federation and Belarus to observe global rules that allow observers to have "briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers about the exercise, and overflights of the exercise".

But Moscow has said that nearly 13,000 Russian and Belarussian servicemen will take part, as well as around 70 planes and helicopters.

Last month, the U.S. Army's top general in Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said that U.S. allies in eastern Europe and Ukraine were anxious the exercises could be a "Trojan horse" aimed at leaving behind military equipment brought into Belarus.

Officials revealed that nearly 700 pieces of military hardware will be deployed, including nearly 250 tanks, 10 ships and various artillery and rocket systems.

A Russian deputy defence minister said on Tuesday there was no truth in allegations Russia would use the exercise as a cover to invade and occupy Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine.

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And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has warned that "substantially more" troops may take part than will be officially divulged, said last week the alliance would be watching closely.

Lungescu said that while the Western alliance welcomed the invitations, global rules require Moscow and Minsk to allow wider access to monitors.

In July, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said dialogue between NATO and Russian Federation can be hard, but it is essential amid raised tensions and it is particularly important to keep channels of communication open. Moscow says the event will involve less than 13,000 troops and therefore only three monitors are allowed per treaty.

On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told Western military attaches in Moscow that the West had nothing to fear.

Three US exercises will be underway at the same time as Zapad, in Sweden, Poland and Ukraine, and a US armoured brigade has already deployed in Europe. "Not a single one of these paradoxical versions has anything to do with reality", he said, insisting that the drills would be "purely defensive in nature".

Russian Federation and Belarus say the Zapad (West) exercises, which are set to be held in Belarus and parts of western Russian Federation on September 14-20, will involve about 12,700 troops.

Suggestions that Russian Federation posed a threat were "myths", the deputy minister, Alexander Fomin, said.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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