Nato concerned Russia using war games as 'Trojan horse'

This article is more than 12 months old

TALLINN, ESTONIA: From planes, radars and ships in the Baltics, Nato officials said they are watching Russia's biggest war games since 2013 with "calm and confidence", but many are unnerved about what they see as Moscow testing its ability to wage war against the West.

Nato believes the exercises, officially starting yesterday in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, are already underway. It said they are larger than Moscow publicised, numbering 100,000 troops and involve nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Nato officials said the drills, codenamed Zapad or "West", will simulate a conflict with the US-led alliance, intended to show Russia's ability to mass troops at short notice.

Lithuania's Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis voiced fears that the drills risk triggering an accidental conflict, or could allow Moscow to leave troops in nearby Belarus.

Some Western officials have raised concerns that Russia might use the drills as a "Trojan horse" to make incursions into Poland and Russian-speaking regions in the Baltics.

The Kremlin rejects such plans. Russia said some 13,000 troopsare involved.

But Nato officials said they have been watching Russia's preparations for months, including the use of hundreds of rail cars to carry tanks and other equipment into Belarus.

As a precaution, the US army has moved 600 paratroopers to the Baltics and has taken over guardianship of the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which lack capable air forces and air defence systems.- REUTERS