Wary NATO Eyes Turn to Moscow’s ‘Zapad 17’ in Belarus

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Zapad 2017, the week-long joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise beginning September 14, has raised concerns in the West over its size and intent. Some say there will be more than 100,000 troops participating. Belarus has said only 12,700 will be involved – just under the 13,000 limit, at which point a country must notify other nations in advance and make the exercises open to international observers. Belarus said it has invited observers from seven countries. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is sending two experts, but he also said this is not enough, and Russia is using “loopholes” to minimize the number of NATO observers.

The bigger question is, what is the intent behind Zapad? And will Russian troops be left behind in Belarus, in preparation for potential incursions in the future? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with General Philip Breedlove, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) and Commander of U.S. European Command until May 2016, about what to expect from Zapad 2017. 

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