NATO mon­i­tors war games

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Llazar Sem­ini

TIRANA, ALBANIA» A se­nior NATO of­fi­cial says 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, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view Satur­day that NATO is in­creas­ing ef­forts to re-es­tab­lish the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Rus­sia to avoid any “un­in­tended con­se­quences of po­ten­tial in­ci­dents dur­ing the ex­er­cise.”

The de­fense chiefs of NATO mem­ber 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 Sept. 20.

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 facts of 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 to 100,000.

“All to­gether, what we see is a se­ri­ous prepa­ra­tion for big war,” he told The AP. “When we only look at the ex­er­cise that is pre­sented by Rus­sia, there should be no worry. But when we look at it in the big pic­ture, we have to be wor­ried, be­cause Rus­sia was not trans­par­ent.”

Two weeks ago, Pavel met in per­son with the Rus­sian mil­i­tary’s Gen­eral Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasi­mov.

The Supreme Al­lied Com­man­der for Europe, Gen. Cur­tis Sca­parrotti, had a phone call with Gerasi­mov at the be­gin­ning of Za­pad 17. Pavel said it was “mainly fo­cused on trans­parency and risk re­duc­tion and avoid­ance of un­in­tended con­se­quences of po­ten­tial in­ci­dents.”

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