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100,000 Troops Will Engage in Russia’s Zapad-2017 War Games

| Sep. 13, 2017

As Russia prepares for its annual strategic military exercises, speculation is mounting that the Zapad-2017 war games, set for Thursday through Sept. 20 in western Russia and Belarus, might be a prelude to war. Ukraine’s defense minister cautioned that Zapad could be a ruse to attack any European country “that shares a border with Russia,” while the New York Times proclaimed that the drills near NATO’s borders have raised “fears of aggression.” A CNNcontributor wondered, “Could they turn into war?”

My analysis of Russia’s recent war games suggests that this is highly unlikely. The Russian military is preparing for war, but that is what generals in all countries do — prepare for worst-case scenarios, and carry out large-scale exercises to test the military’s readiness for them. Russia’s annual strategic exercises rotate among four regions: Zapad (“west,” last held in 2013), Vostok (“east,” 2014), Tsentr (“center,” 2015) and Kavkaz (“Caucasus,” 2016). If anything, this rotation suggests that Russian strategists are trying to for a strategic conflict from any direction, be it with NATO or China.

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For Academic Citation: Saradzhyan, Simon.“ 100,000 Troops Will Engage in Russia’s Zapad-2017 War Games.” The Washington Post, September 13, 2017.

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