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Report: Putin May Be Planning to Conquer Belarus With Military Exercises

Image: Report: Putin May Be Planning to Conquer Belarus With Military Exercises
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik via AP)

By    |   Saturday, 19 Aug 2017 11:02 PM

Russia and Belarus are planning large-scale war games next month — and fears are that President Vladimir Putin may use them as a cover for something more sinister, like his takeover of Crimea.

"Russia is billing it as modest exercises under 13,000 troops, but everything points to probably the largest military exercise in post-Soviet history," Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told CNBC on Saturday.

Similar exercises, Aron said, preceded Russia's invasion of two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine. Belarus is another former Soviet republic.

Putin's relationship with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has grown more acrimonious, CNBC reports, particularly after Moscow annexed Crimea.

Russia quadrennial Zapad — Russian for "west" — joint military drills are scheduled for Sept. 14-20. They will include 12,700 troops.

Moscow has insisted that the games are designed to "test military coordination," CNBC reports.

However, The New York Times reported last month that the exercise could involve as many as 100,000 people, including "security personnel and civilian officials."

"We urge Russia to share information regarding its exercises and operations in NATO's vicinity to clearly convey its intentions and minimize any misunderstandings," Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNBC.

Further, Estonia and other NATO countries in the Baltic region remain concerned that the Moscow's exercises have another purpose.

"Russia seeks to redraw international borders by force, undermine democracies of sovereign nations and divide the free nations of Europe," Vice President Mike Pence said last month when he visited the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

In April, then-Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna told Reuters that his country and other NATO members had intelligence that Russia planned to send troops and resources to Belarus.

In addition, the data indicated that Moscow would not remove all of its equipment after the exercises — and they would leave some permanent forces behind, he said.

"For Russian troops going to Belarus, it is a one-way ticket," Tsahkna told Reuters.

"This is not my personal opinion, we are analyzing very deeply how Russia is preparing for the Zapad exercises."

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Russia and Belarus are planning large-scale war games next month - and fears are that President Vladimir Putin may use them as a cover for something more sinister, like his takeover of Crimea."Russia is billing it as modest exercises under 13,000 troops, but everything...
Russia, Belarus, Crimea, miltary, exercises
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2017-02-19
Saturday, 19 Aug 2017 11:02 PM
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