Russia launched ‘full-scale war’ simulation against Nato, commander claims

General Riho Terras said the Zapad (or ‘West’) exercises that were held last year were used to simulate a large-scale conflict with the US-led alliance as well as to show off Russia’s ability to deploy a large amount of troops at short notice in the event of an outbreak of conflict.

The exercises, which were held in Belarus and the Baltic Sea as well as Kaliningrad between 14-20 September last year, took place to test the response to an attack from militants, according to Russia’ defence ministry.

But Mr Terras as poured cold water on that version of events in an interview with the German newspaper Bild.

He said: “Let me be clear: with the exercise Zapad 2017, Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato.

“It was not targeted towards the Baltic states only, as it was a theatre-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea.

“The scale and extent of the entire exercise was far greater than officially stated.”

The paper had previously claimed in December instead of the exercises being “purely defensive,” as Russia said, Zapad was in reality used to simulate a “full-scale conventional war against Nato in Europe,” according to two analysts from a western intelligence service.

The report claimed the drills involved far more troops than the 12,700 that Russia’s defence ministry claimed took part.

Another 12,000 Russian soldiers took part in exercises in regions “near the Estonian borders”, and more than 10,000 in the area near the north of Finland and Norway, the sources said.

The war games, supposedly, saw Russian and Belarus forces defend themselves from attack by three fictional nations – “Veishnoriya”, “Lubeniya” and “Vesbariya”. 

Although at face value the exercise, which takes place every four years, is seen as valuable military training, it is viewed by Western nations and Russia’s neighbours as a very public show of strength. 

Nato had voiced concern that Moscow could use the war games as a cover to station troops and equipment in Belarus.

Belarus said at the time of the exercises the West had no reason to fear attack – or that Russia would leave troops behind after the war games are finished.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskait made the exercises the centrepiece of her annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

She said at the time: “Even as we speak, around 100,000 Russian troops are engaged in offensive military exercise ‘Zapad 2017’ on the borders of the Baltic States, Poland and even in the Arctic.

“The Kremlin is rehearsing aggressive scenarios against its neighbours, training its army to attack the West. The exercise is also part of information warfare aimed at spreading uncertainty and fear.”