As cold warriors NATO and Russia prepare to kick off war games to demonstrate their respective strength, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Moscow ought to allow international observers since on previous occasions Russian war games were a prelude to invasion.
“We have seen before that Russia has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbors,” Stoltenberg said. “That happened in Georgia in 2008 when they invaded Georgia, and it happened in Crimea in 2014 when they illegally annexed Crimea. So we call on Russia to be fully transparent.”
In the past, it has been standard procedure to allow observers for war games consisting of more than 13,000 troops. And while reports have noted that Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said last month the Zapad 2017 exercise Sept. 14-20 only involves 13,000 Russian and Belorussian troops, Stoltenberg noted that Moscow has, in the past, under-reported the number of forces involved in exercises.
He further accused Russia of “using loopholes in international agreements to avoid international observation.”
Source: Zero Hedge
Analyst comment: NATO’s concerns are notable and important — and historically accurate. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it a point to note as well that NATO’s build up along its eastern flanks necessitates that Moscow do the same. In his interview with Hollywood director Oliver Stone, NATO’s saber-rattling leaves Russia no other choice than to “give a suitable response to all of these actions.”
Who is right? Here’s one way of looking at it.
Granted, Putin has a responsibility to protect his country. B given that Russia is prone to invading former states that were part of the old Soviet Union, it behooves NATO to improve perimeter defenses and increase readiness among its own members, especially since several member states have allowed their militaries to shrink while Russia has been undergoing military modernization programs. Plus, NATO has no history of invading Russia-aligned states.