Last Thursday, US Army Europe Commanding General Ben Hodges relayed that allies in eastern Europe and Ukraine fear that Russia’s September war games could be a “Trojan Horse” designed to leave behind military equipment brought into Belarus.
Russia has intended to guarantee NATO that the war games will respect international limits on size, yet NATO and US officials were still concerned about the exercise’s scale and scope.
In an interview, Hodges told that allied officials will monitor the military gear that is being shipped to Belarus for the Zapad 2017 exercise.
"People are worried, this is a Trojan horse. They say, 'We're just doing an exercise,' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere," he said in an article published on Reuters’ website.
Hodges admitted that he has no evidence that Russia will be planning such an activity, yet he added that Moscow’s openness about the exercise’s extent will help guarantee eastern Europe countries.
NATO allies are worried since past large-scale Russian exercises featured special forces training, longer-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs]. They added that these elements were utilized in Crimea’s 2014 annexation, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and in its intervention in Syria.
Some NATO allies also believe that the exercise could feature more than 100,000 troops and nuclear weapons training.
Russia will be inviting observers if the exercise went past 13,000 forces, while Hodges states that NATO will perform normal rotations during the Russian war game.
"We want to avoid anything that looks like a provocation. This is not going to be the 'Sharks' and the 'Jets' out on the streets," Hodges said in a reference to "West Side Story's" New York City gang fights.
|Photo by: U.S. Army Europe/ Wikimedia Commons|