Russia and Belarus are planning large-scale war games next month — and fears are that President Vladimir Putin may use them as a cover for something more sinister, like his takeover of Crimea.
“Russia is billing it as modest exercises under 13,000 troops, but everything points to probably the largest military exercise in post-Soviet history,” Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told CNBC on Saturday.
Similar exercises, Aron said, preceded Russia’s invasion of two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine. Belarus is another former Soviet republic.
Putin’s relationship with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has grown more acrimonious, CNBC reports, particularly after Moscow annexed Crimea.
Russia quadrennial Zapad — Russian for “west” — joint military drills are scheduled for Sept. 14-20. They will include 12,700 troops.
Moscow has insisted that the games are designed to “test military coordination,” CNBC reports.
However, The New York Times reported last month