Rus­sia seeks to al­lay fears about war games

The Korea Times - - WORLD - MOSCOW (AP)

— In a bid to dis­pel Western fears about planned war games by Rus­sia and Be­larus, the Rus­sian mil­i­tary said Tues­day the ma­neu­vers sim­u­lat­ing a re­sponse to for­eign-backed “ex­trem­ists” won’t threaten any­one.

The ma­neu­vers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Be­larus and western Rus­sia, have raised NATO con­cerns. Some al­liance mem­bers, in­clud­ing the Baltic states and Poland, have crit­i­cized Moscow for a lack of trans­parency and ques­tioned its in­ten­tions.

Amid spi­ral­ing ten­sions over fight­ing in Ukraine, Western wor­ries about the planned ma­neu­vers have ranged from al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia could keep its forces in Be­larus af­ter the drills, to fears of a sur­prise at­tack on the Baltics.

Rus­sia’s Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter, Lt. Gen. Alexan­der Fomin, re­jected what he de­scribed as Western “myths about the so-called Rus­sian threat.”

“The most im­prob­a­ble sce­nar­ios have been floated,” he said at a brief­ing for for­eign mil­i­tary at­taches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Za­pad 2017 ex­er­cises will serve as a ‘plat­form for in­va­sion’ and ‘oc­cu­pa­tion’ of Lithua­nia, Poland and Ukraine.”

Fomin said the Rus­sian mil­i­tary will in­vite for­eign ob­servers to the ma­neu­vers, which will in­volve 5,500 Rus­sian and 7,200 Be­laru­sian troops, about 70 air­craft, up to 250 tanks, 200 ar­tillery sys­tems and 10 navy ships.

Moscow’s as­sur­ances, how­ever, have failed to as­suage Rus­sia’s neigh­bors, which ex­pect the drills to be far greater in scope than of­fi­cially de­clared.

Es­to­nian De­fense Min­is­ter Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could de­ploy up to 100,000 troops for the ma­neu­vers. Poland’s Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter Michal Dwor­czyk also ques­tioned Rus­sia’s of­fi­cial claims, say­ing that Warsaw ex­pects many more Rus­sian sol­diers and equip­ment to be de­ployed.

Speak­ing Mon­day on Pol­ish state Ra­dio 1, Dwor­czyk ex­pressed hope that the ex­er­cise “will not in­clude any ag­gres­sive sce­nar­ios” and won’t cause any in­ci­dents, adding that “op­er­a­tions on this scale al­ways run this risk.”

AP-Yon­hap

A man watches Rus­sian mil­i­tary jets per­form­ing in Alabino, out­side Moscow, Rus­sia, in this Aug. 12 file photo. The Rus­sian mil­i­tary says ma­jor war games, the Za­pad (West) 2017 ma­neu­vers, set for next month will not threaten any­one.

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