NATO has accused Russia of misleading the Western military alliance about the military exercises it held last month with Belarus.
“There is a discrepancy between what Russia briefed before the exercise … and the actual numbers and the scale and the scope of the exercise,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
Russian defense officials said the Zapad 2017 exercises involved 12,700 troops, but NATO contends there were nearly 100,000 troops from the Arctic to eastern Ukraine and that they simulated attacks on the West.
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, disputed the claim. “NATO countries are counting all the military activities that took place in the Russian Federation and counting them as part of Zapad,” he said. “We don’t accept the propaganda about the Russian exercises.”
In the run-up to the exercises, there was concern in the West that Russia would use the war games to seize parts of the Baltics that have high numbers of Russian minorities, as it did with Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
There was also concern that Moscow would leave troops at NATO’s borders, for possible future confrontation with the West. But Stoltenberg said there was no indication Russia had done so.
Grushko insisted there was “no proof” of the claims NATO was making. “All efforts have been to demonize Zapad,” he said.