Saturday, September 4, 2021

NATO Calls on Russia to Be Transparent with Military Exercises at Shared Border - Tasnim News Agency

NATO Calls on Russia to Be Transparent with Military Exercises at Shared Border

(Tasnim) – NATO’s secretary general called on Russia to be open about its "Zapad-2021" military exercises and the troop numbers involved as alarm grows in Poland, the Baltics and Ukraine about Moscow's intentions.

Previous "Zapad", or West, exercises along the border that Russia shares with NATO have been on a vast scale, according to allied officials, who say Moscow has habitually underreported their size despite international rules.

"Russia should behave in a predictable and transparent way," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters on Friday.

The main phase of the exercises is due to start on Sept 10.

The Zapad manoeuvres, which follow a Russian military buildup on Ukraine's borders this year, heighten the risk of an accident or miscalculation that could touch off a crisis, NATO officials have said.

Russia, which will join forces with Belarusian troops, says it is within its rights to exercise on its territory and is clear about the numbers involved.

Belarus's defense ministry said in August the exercises would be held at training grounds in both Russia and Belarus and will be based on a scenario where the two countries are under attack.

"The reality is that since the end of the Cold War, Russia has never opened an exercise for mandatory inspections," Stoltenberg said. "So we will be vigilant."

Western experts believe the large-scale operations, using drones, missiles and new weapons, allow Russia to practice for any all-out war with the United States in Europe.

NATO says it is a defensive alliance and is not looking for any conflict.

Tensions are also high on the Belarus-NATO border after Minsk began pushing migrants into Lithuania to put pressure on the European Union, Western officials say, in response to EU sanctions on the Belarusian government.

"Belarus is weaponizing migration," Stoltenberg said. "We decided to deploy a team of experts to Lithuania next week, to help Lithuania face the hybrid activities by the regime" of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus denies any wrongdoing.

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