Benitez: Russia’s Military Exercises are Very Dangerous

ZAPAD 2013NATOSource Director and Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council Jorge Benitez said that Russian military activities along the Finnish border, the deployment of strategic weapons systems to Kaliningrad and Crimea, and positions across the Baltic Fleet, Black Sea Fleet, and in the western and southern military districts, mimicked a full-scale attack against Europe.

“These maneuvers are very dangerous. They are provocative; they are excessive both in the size and in their frequency. The West, the NATO members are creating maneuvers of a few hundred, and a few thousand troops for training exercises,” Benitez said.

Russia doubled its troops at its most recent maneuvers from initially 40,000 to 80,000. Last September, its military drills in the Far East, dubbed “Vostok-2014,” included 100,000 troops and were the largest since the Soviet era. In addition, up to 1,500 tanks, 120 aircraft, 5,000 pieces of weaponry, military and special hardware, and up to 70 ships took part in the exercises.

Russia is regularly exercising tens of thousands of troops that “do not seem to have defensive purposes,” said Benitez….

“He [Putin] is probing NATO, not just militarily but also politically. He is trying to make the message of ‘I’m closer to your allies. I have a much larger military in this area and I can play a much quicker role in deciding on how I can deal with these things,'” Benitez said. NATO exercises are planned days, weeks and months, sometimes years, in advance, he noted, while Russia is conducting military exercises “on 24-hour notice.”

The deployment of ballistic missiles and bomber aircraft are provocative indicators of possible pre-emptive action against NATO and Eastern Europe, contends Benitez.

“It has to be made clear to Russia that any aggression against the Baltic allies would lead to a major war with the West. It has to remind and make very clear and transparent to Moscow and to Mr. Putin himself that any military aggression against any allies, specifically the Baltics, will be met by all of the Alliance working to defend them,” said Benitez

Image: ZAPAD 2013 (photo: Office of the President of Russia)