As Russia and Belarus prep for their quadrennial fight-the-West wargame, NATO’s Baltic states are watching more than a bit nervously.
For the Baltic countries on NATO’s northeastern flank, carefully monitoring Russia’s various defense investments and activities is nothing new. Like brushing your teeth, it’s just a matter of staying healthy, Estonia’s defense minister told a small group of reporters while visiting the U.S. last week. Observing Russian military activity is that routine, “but we do it even more often,” he said.
So Margus Tsahkna and his counterparts in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania say they’re in no way unprepared for Russia’s upcoming military exercise, Zapad (“West”) 2017. The joint exercise with Belarus, which simulates a full-scale conflict with the West, happens every four years. But even so, “it’s not comfortable at all when we expect to have 100,000 troops around our borders,” Lithuanian Minister of Defence Raimundas Karoblis said during a recent visit to Washington.
Scheduled for autumn, this year’s Zapad will be the first since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.