NATO con­cerned about Rus­sian mil­i­tary games

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Nation&world - By The Associated Press

TI­RANA, Al­ba­nia — A se­nior NATO of­fi­cial said there’s rea­son to be con­cerned about the largescale Za­pad 2017 mil­i­tary ma­neu­vers be­ing con­ducted now by Rus­sia and Be­larus, since they could be seen as “a se­ri­ous prepa­ra­tion for big war.”

Gen. Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s Mil­i­tary Com­mit­tee, said in an in­ter­view Satur­day that NATO is in­creas­ing ef­forts to re-es­tab­lish mil­i­taryto-mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Rus­sia to avoid any “un­in­tended con­se­quences of po­ten­tial in­ci­dents dur­ing the ex­er­cise.”

The de­fense chiefs of NATO coun­tries were hold­ing their an­nual con­fer­ence this year in the Al­ba­nian cap­i­tal of Ti­rana to dis­cuss fight­ing ter­ror­ism, the sit­u­a­tion in the Western Balkans and the new U.S. strat­egy on Afghanistan.

The Za­pad war games, be­ing con­ducted this year mostly in Be­larus, run un­til Wed­nes­day and in­volve 5,500 Rus­sian and 7,200 Be­laru­sian troops, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sia.

De­spite as­sur­ances from Moscow that “NATO is not con­sid­ered as an en­emy” and that “the ex­er­cise is not aimed at NATO,” Pavel said Rus­sians have not been trans­par­ent about the ex­er­cises. He says the num­ber of troops in the ex­er­cises — which the Rus­sians say is about 12,700 — could ac­tu­ally be be­tween 70,000 and 100,000.

“All to­gether, what we see is a se­ri­ous prepa­ra­tion for big war,” he said, adding, “We have to be sure that ... an un­in­tended in­ci­dent will not es­ca­late into con­flict.”

VAYAR MIL­I­TARY AGENCY

Be­laru­sian forces par­tic­i­pate in war games with Rus­sian forces at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Be­larus.

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