Russian Federation starts big war games along its borders, alarming its neighbors

The annual Rapid Trident military exercises taking place in the western Ukrainian city of Yavoriv until September 23 involve an

Since then, they take place every four years and have been viewed as relatively routine.

Western officials raise concerns Moscow may use drills as a "Trojan horse" to make incursions into Poland and Baltics.

The maneuvers involve up to 12,700 serviceman (about 7,200 from Belarus and about 5,500 from Russia), about 70 planes and helicopters, up to 680 military equipment units, including around 250 tanks, up to 200 weapons, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars and 10 ships.

Deputy Minister Valentin Rybakov focused on the defensive nature of the exercise.

The participants in the drills will simulate tactical operations involving live-fire exercises and the wide use of air force and air defense force personnel and hardware at six training ranges in Belarus - Lepel, Losvido, Borisov, Osipovichi, Ruzhany, Domanovo, and also parts of the Dretun area - and also at three training ranges in Russia - Luga, Strugi Krasnye, and Pravdinsk.

But NATO claims Russian Federation has kept it in the dark and seems to be massively underreporting the scale of the exercises, which some of the alliance's eastern members insist could see more than 100,000 servicemen take part.

Military expert Alexander Golts said Moscow "very skillfully manipulates the figures for such drills because it does not want to have to invite foreign observers".

Since the two nations split after the break up of the Soviet Union, Belarus has struggled to maintain its sovereignty and independence in Russia's shadow, and some Western observers have warned that the Russian troops who come to Belarus for the Zapad games may wind up occupying it.

But NATO claims Russian Federation has kept it in the dark and could be massively underreporting the scale of the exercises, which some of the alliance's eastern members say involves more than 100,000 servicemen. Back in 2008, military exercises also preceded Russia's invasion of Georgia.

'We can't be totally calm. "There is a large foreign army massed next to Lithuanian territory", Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis told Reuters recently.

Russia's military show of force raises some uncomfortable questions for the alliance because North Atlantic Treaty Organisation can not yet mass large numbers of troops quickly, despite the United States' military might, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials and diplomats said.

"We have seen before that Russian Federation has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours", Stoltenberg said.

"Russia is the country that is affecting security in Europe now because of its actions, the annexation of the Crimea and the continuing battles in eastern Ukraine", Biden said. "They say, 'We're just doing an exercise, ' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere".

There is an information war going on for public opinion in NATO-member states too, with Western governments keen to bolster their case for increasing military spending to counter a resurgent Russian military.

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