The Russian military held yet another surprise massive exercise this past week, prompting Western officials to voice concerns about Russia's increased aggressiveness and its propensity for conducting war drills that ready its forces for World War 3. While Russia claims the drills are simple exercises for defensive readiness and as responses to the build-up of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on its western border, it is stoking fears of invasion in those same nations on the European border, giving rise to tensions that seem to further destabilize the entire region.
The Daily Signal, a conservative news website operated by the Heritage Foundation think-tank, reported August 30 that Russia has increasingly added to already existing tensions in the region in the past few weeks, making matters worse by the snap military exercise that ended September 1 (beginning on August 25) that caught nearby nations and NATO off-guard. The drill precedes a major Russian military exercise scheduled this month but succeeds not only the build-up of NATO forces in eastern Europe but also the Russia's military build-up in its southwestern territory, particularly along its border with Ukraine. Added to the high number of military exercises conducted by Russia in the last couple years and the formation of a new military task force in the area (reported by Inquisitr in August), the fears of an imminent Russian invasion into Ukraine or somewhere else along its European border has mounted considerably. These fears, in turn, lead to speculation of smaller conflagrations escalating into full-blown multi-national war, or worse, World War 3.
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow told The Daily Signal this week that Russia's military maneuverings were contributing to a destabilization of the region.
"If there is an interest in Moscow in stability and predictability, then these exercises are not the way to go."
As Inquisitr also reported in July, the ultimate intent of the Russian Federation and its constant military drilling is unclear and has prompted reports such as that of the Atlantic Council, which warned NATO that Russia could use the military exercises to launch a surprise attack against any of a number of border nations -- but most likely against Ukraine or the ill-prepared Baltic States. The report noted that Russia could strike "overnight," with little or "no warning" and use the military exercises as a cover to launch an invasion.
The next planned exercise on the Russian military agenda is a massive cross-branch undertaking that will involve tens of thousands of troops and see the participation of its army, naval, and air forces. Called Kavkaz-2016, it will involve units stationed along the borders of Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
For its part, Russia insists that all the exercises are simply evaluation efforts to better prepare its military for a possible war. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu commented on plans for Kavkaz-2016 back in January, via Russian news agency RIA Novosti, "It is important to assess our capabilities for protecting national interests in the southwestern strategic direction amid the uneasy international military and political situation."
That political situation remains extremely tense as Russian-backed rebels continue to fight Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas region of the country. Officials there have been anticipating a full Russian invasion since the forced annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Some, though, do not see Russia as moving toward invasion, just attempting to convey the impression that invasion is imminent. "War is a continuation of policy," Alex Kokcharov, IHS Markit's principal analyst for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, told the Daily Signal. "And the Kremlin's policy is to keep Ukraine sufficiently destabilized to stall the implementation of its reform agenda and economic recovery, and thus to engineer a fall of the current pro-Western government in Kiev."
Kokcharov believes Russia's goal is to use Ukraine's destabilization as leverage for negotiating for an alleviation or discontinuation of sanctions levied against it after the invasion and annexation of Crimea.
And if destabilization is the ultimate goal, Ukraine being placed on a constant war-readiness footing, which is a drain on the economy, just might achieve it. The Daily Star has quoted Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, as saying, "We don't rule out a full-scale Russian invasion." It is that uncertainty that promotes both economic and political chaos.
Kokcharov revealed that there had been 12 snap drills conducted by the Russian military in the past two years. The Daily Star offered that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered 21 military inspections sanctioned in the last three years, as well -- and the military exercises number in the hundreds.
Russian officials defend the seeming never-ending display of armaments and troop movements. Russia's Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov said the following, according to Daily Star:
"The role of the armed forces in the country has changed dramatically today. There is a specific threat to the security of our country."
The just-completed military drill and the upcoming Kazkav-2016 exercise are the largest within the past 18 months, Ivashov said.
Konstantin Sivkov, a Russian doctor of military sciences, said that "the intensity of combat training" had increased over the last three years and was due to "military tension in our world."
He added, "Turkey has entered the war in Syria, the United States has built up a group at our borders. Our military leaders are taking the appropriate steps."
Provocative military exercises or readiness preparations for World War 3, Russian military movements of late have the world on edge. Of course, concerning the lifting of economic sanctions as an ultimate goal, the destabilization of Ukraine and the region might not have the intended effect. And if that were to become the case, what would Russia then do? Would the world's largest nation be willing to ignite World War 3 simply to extend its sphere of influence over the same territory it once enjoyed as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
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