Joint military drills begin in Ukraine as Russian war games loom

Elias Hubbard
September 14, 2017

South Korean military police in an anti-terror and anti-chemical terror exercise as part of the 2017 Ulchi Freedom Guardian at Kintex on August 21 in Goyang, South Korea.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other nations and open the maneuvers to observers.

The annual Rapid Trident military maneuvers commenced on Monday, involving an "unprecedented" number of 2,500 troops from 15 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members and are due to continue until September 23, the Ukrainian military announced in a statement.

Tensions between Moscow and the West have spiraled since Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. It also serves to validate aspects of the Ukraine's military training program.

According to the Kremlin, some 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops will participate in the land, sea and air drills to last until September 20; other observers contend that more than 100,000 soldiers will be involved. 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.

Despite assurances from Minsk and Moscow, the Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers have caused concern in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The Zapad 2017 joint strategic military exercise involving 12,700 servicemen from Russian Federation and Belarus has begun.

"And we've seen before, Russian Federation using military exercises as a disguise for aggressive actions against other countries; that was the case in 2008 and that was the case in 2014 when they annexed Crimea", Stoltenberg said. "Russia is testing us and testing us now at every opportunity".

"In response to this uncertainty, the U.S. has built a joint, persistent rotational presence of air, land, and sea presence in the region to support our Allies", she added.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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