In the end, Russia’s much-feared “West” war game, in which Spetsnaz troops did participate, concluded with a whimper, not a bang. “After all the anxiety, Russia’s Zapad exercise ends without provocation,” read the headline in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes on September 20th.
For months, while Russia insisted its war game would involve fewer than 13,000 soldiers, the U.S. and its allies had warned that, in reality, up to 100,000 troops would flood into Belarus. Of those Russian troop levels, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Möller, a Swedish military observer who attended Zapad, said, “We reported about 12,400.” Of such exercises, he added, “This is normal military business as we do in all countries with armed forces. This is not training for attacking anyone. You meet the enemy, you stop the enemy, you defeat the enemy with a counterattack. We are doing the same thing in Sweden.”
Indeed, just as Möller suggested, more than 20,000 troops — including U.S. Special Operations forces and soldiers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden — had gathered in his country during the Zapad exercise for Aurora 2017. And Sweden was hardly unique. At the same time, troops from the U.S., Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom were carrying out Rapid Trident, an annual military exercise, in neighboring Ukraine.
What message was the U.S. sending to Russia by conducting training exercises on its borders, Catherine Herridge of Fox News asked General Raymond Thomas in Aspen? “That’s a fascinating question because I am — I try to appreciate the adversary’s optic to — I realize that a way to gauge a metric if you will for how well we’re doing,” the SOCOM chief replied somewhat incoherently.
From America with love – Salon