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According to CNN, Russia is unleashing massive firepower right on NATO’s border. Under the watchful eyes of President Vladimir Putin, tanks, rockets, and aircrafts display their capabilities in choreographed war games named Zapad (the west). Russia is conducting the military exercise with Belarus. They claim that the exercise simulates an attack by a fictitious country on Russia and Belarus.
Despite claiming that their military exercises were defensive in nature, allies of the U.S. and NATO have expressed concerns about Russia’s intentions. For example, their last war games exercise was followed by the annexation of Crimea. Furthermore, ABC News notes that the U.S. has accused Russia of developing cruise missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty with a goal to threaten U.S. facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance. While Russia claims that the exercise includes under 13,000 of its own troops, including aircraft, tanks, artillery and navy ships, Estonia, a member of NATO, says that up to 100,000 Russians could be involved. NATO fears Russia might leave troops at the borders after the exercise as a tactical move to gain a competitive edge. American military officers warn New York Times that the maneuvers could be used as a pretext to increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, a central European nation that borders three critical NATO allies: Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The President of Lithuania has stepped up to defend Russia, stating that they are necessary because the air defence of the eastern NATO flag is the weakest and thus needed more investments.
Security concerns arising from such displays of military might is just one in a series that have risen from potentially aggressive states, with the biggest threat posed by North Korea’s ongoing spat with the US and their continuing nuclear arms buildup. The New York Times reports that the United States is taking precautions, including sending 600 American paratroopers to NATO’s three Baltic members for the duration of the Zapad exercise. The large-scale military exercise undertaken by Russia has revived fears of Cold War Russian aggression, causing hysteria in the West. Poland and NATO have responded to Russia’s Zapad with an even larger military exercise just three days ago. The Polish Defense Military highlighted that the Dragon 17 exercises involve roughly 17,000 servicemen and 3,500 units of equipment.
In light of the already high tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear war threats, the Russian and NATO-led military exercises will only escalate paranoia on a global level. During the Cold War, it was the perceived security threat that pushed both sides to compete on ideological, military and economic levels. While claiming a possibility of a new Cold War may be a stretch, these massive displays of military might sour relations between two of the nations. Even if Russia’s claim that the military exercises were essential holds, more efforts to ensure maximum transparency is needed to eliminate hysteria among the U.S. and NATO allies.