To review, in the past few weeks there have been a number of conspiracy theories floated about what Russia may actually do before, during, and/or after Zapad 2017, which begins 14 September and ends 20 September 2017.
Russia has a history of using military exercises as a cover for preparations for real invasions (2 x Ukraine, 2 x Georgia).
- Russia may decide to stay in Belarus
- Russia may launch an invasion of the Baltics
- Here it is proposed the Russia may carve out a passageway to Kaliningrad, which is physically separated from Russia.
- Take a chunk out of Poland
- Take a chunk out of Lithuania
- Keep a chunk of Belarus, leading to the passageway
There are a few other possibilities:
- Belarus may be used as a distraction for an operation elsewhere
- This entire operation may be being purposefully overhyped by Russia to
- Harass the West
- Embarrass the West
- Create disharmony, unrest, chaos, and confusion – in the West
- 10,000 – 13,500 Russians participate in a routine Zapad 2017 exercise and nothing else happens.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst. With Russia, there is no telling. Russia’s reassurances are merely words, Russian words are meaningless.
Russian-Belarusian joint military exercise Zapad 2017 may include an attempt by troops without insignia to break through toward Kaliningrad region, representative of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Col. Vladyslav Voloshyn told Espreso.TV.
“There is a Suvalki gap separating Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad region [exclave], which is quite a short distance, it’s Poland and Lithuania. And it’s quite easy to conduct such an operation with “we-are-not-there” [little green men] in this corridor, as the events in Crimea and Donbas have shown,” said Voloshyn.
Another threat of these exercises he called the possibility that a certain part of Russia’s armed contingent could remain in Belarus.
At the same time, he has noted that Vladimir Putin can also claim, if needed, that there are no Russian troops in Belarus and that the armed men are not Russian regular servicemen.
As UNIAN reported earlier, according to official data, an active phase of the joint strategic exercise Zapad 2017 is scheduled for September 14-20, 2008. The drills on Belarusian territory envisage participation of up to 13,000 servicemen.
Minister of Defense of Ukraine Stepan Poltorak believes that the exercises can be used to launch aggression both against Ukraine and against any country in Europe that has a common border with Russia.
The Russian defense ministry assured that the “anti-terrorist” exercises would not prepare a springboard for invading Ukraine.
Ahead of the exercises, seven American fighter jets arrived in Lithuania on the air policing mission.