NATO is confident that its suspicions concerning the Zapad 2017 Russian-Belarusian exercises were justified. "It will take several weeks for a full assessment, but it is already clear that the scale and the geographic coverage of the Zapad 2017 exercise turned out to be substantially larger than those declared initially by Moscow and Minsk," as relayed by NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, to Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday, September 21st.
According to her, these maneuvers were held not only in Belarus, Kaliningrad, the Leningrad region, and the Baltic Sea, as it had been announced before the beginning of the exercises. Simultaneously, "significant" drills were held in the Arctic, the Far East, the Black Sea near the border with Ukraine, as well as in Abkhazia. Russian authorities officially associated some of these drills with the Zapad 2017 maneuvers, Lungescu added.
The North Atlantic Alliance believes that the Zapad-2017 exercise simulated a "vast conflict between the states" and that they used "a full range of Russian and Belarusian weapons," including the Navy, submarines, fighter jets, tanks, artillery, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
NATO believes that, in fact, much more servicemen took part in the maneuvers than had been officially announced. Earlier, Minsk and Moscow reported about 12,700 military men. The alliance has not yet provided specific numbers, but they have mentioned "several tens of thousands of soldiers" involved in Zapad-2017. The Vienna Document of the OSCE obliges the host countries of military maneuvers to admit foreign observers if the number of personnel participating in them exceeds 13,000.
The Zapad-2017 exercise was held from September 14th to 20th. Before it began, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, claimed in an interview with DW that the maneuvers were exclusively defensive in nature and aimed at "working out the appropriate methods and use of the armed forces to combat terrorism."