If Russia Fought the West, It Would Look Like This
Massive war games underway have neighbors worried
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2017 11:34 AM CDT
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A tank is driven during a military exercise at a training ground near Kaliningrad, Russia, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)
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(Newser) – Pity, poor Veishnoria. Russia and Belarus are conquering the nation with a mighty show of military force that began on Thursday. Veishnoria, fortunately, happens to be a fictional nation invented for six days of intense war games. In fact, this year's Zapad games ("Zapad" means "West") amount to perhaps the biggest display of military power by Russia since the end of the Cold War, reports the Wall Street Journal. Vladimir Putin even skipped the current UN forum to observe. Given Moscow's tense relations with the West at the moment, the display is drawing lots of worried attention. Details:

  • How big? Russia insists that only 12,700 troops are taking part, conveniently below the threshold of 13,000 that would require allowing international observers, reports ABC News. NATO officials estimate the real number is somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000.

  • The real thing: Want to know what a Russian war with NATO would look like? This display is an accurate preview, reports the Washington Post, which provides details on the ground and air weaponry involved. All of it shows off Russia's beefed-up power after a decade of upgrades.
  • Too worried? The games have Russia's neighbors and the West worried about a dress rehearsal for an attack, though a piece at New York suggests that Putin might be playing mind games as well. It collects a quote from the Finnish defense minister, who says the worried reaction is precisely what Putin wanted: "Western countries have taken the bait completely, they've plugged the exercises so much."
  • Then again...: The Guardian notes that similar war games in 2013 were followed by Russia's annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine, while games in 2008 were followed by the invasion of Georgia. Already, concerns are being raised that Russia will leave a large contingent in Belarus when the games are over. Government officials in Estonia and Lithuania have publicly voiced concerns. And Sweden launched military exercises of its own on repelling an invasion, reports Reuters.
  • Hail Veishnoria: Russia not only invented Veishnoria but Lubenia and Vesbasriya as imaginary foes for the simulation, and they're thought to be stand-ins for Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. All three fictional nations now have robust, if satirical, presences online, with fake Twitter accounts and histories, notes the New York Times.

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