Zapad exercise will be a training for an invasion – even though the conflict itself is unlikely to materialize at this point in time, it should not be taken lightly – said Phillip Petersen, vice-President of the Potomac Foundation. Mr Petersen expressed his satisfaction with the fact that NATO forces will conduct military drills on their own in parallel with the Russian exercises. „What Russians are doing is a preparation of sorts for an invasion on the Baltic states and Poland. The exercise alone does not mean that they will follow through with an actual military action, but it does mean that we should take this possibility very seriously” said Petersen. Mr. Petersen is an intelligence and policy analyst, retired US Army officer, and is currently visiting Poland to partake in a wargame organized by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation.

Petersen compared Zapad’17 with the 2008 Caucasus Frontier exercise, which became a prelude to the Russian invasion of Georgia later same year. „By itself, it does not mean that they will pull the trigger this time, but it does mean that they are preparing for it. The thing that worries me the most is that they booked 4200 rail cars. (…) There have never used that many carriages, and I find the fact that 1500 of those 4200 were booked in the case of an actual crisis deeply unsettling. I am concerned that it could easily develop into preparation for a conflict. We know that the Russian economy is in a great deal trouble, with new sanctions levied against it by the US in spite of Donald Trump’s objections are seriously hurting Moscow” said dr. Petersen.

“We are entering a very dangerous period” dr. Petersen said, “it isn’t just these two weeks of exercises, but it’s also likely to be the next two months, because the drills will allow Russia to prepare for an attack. Fortunately, NATO states are carrying out exercises of their own at the same time. This means we will be better prepared if Russians actually do decide to pull the trigger. As far as likelihood of this is concerned, I do not think that it is all that probable, but as an analyst it would be negligent of me if I did not take that possibility into account”.

As the President of the Pulaski Foundation Zbigniew Pisarski pointed out, the September simulation will mark the second time that the foundation has organized a wargame. This time around the scenario assumes an air-land battle on NATO’s eastern flank. Pisarski has remarked – referring to the words of the former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, General Philip Breedlove – that war games are not meant to answer questions, but “to leave the participants with questions to ask themselves”. “It will be no different this time around” – said Pisarski, “we want to put the commanders in a scenario where they have to consider, how would they react under certain real world circumstances” – he added.

Petersen noted that the computer-assisted simulation will be conducted on a tactical-operational level, and will involve those commanders who actually conduct warfare – not the generals but rather colonels and majors. Furthermore, the simulation will be staffed not only by the Poles, but also   Norwegian, Swedish, and perhaps German officers, and hence will be more realistic than the ones held before. The goal of the wargame is to facilitate questions as to how the currently formed territorial defence forces should be organized, equipped and utilized, in order to support regular troops most efficiently.

Scheduled for September 14-20, the joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad’17 exercises are scheduled to take place in Belarus, on the Baltic Sea, as well as in the western Russia, and in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. They are alarming to NATO despite Moscow’s assurances that the exercises are purely defensive in nature.

While the Zapad’17 exercises will take place in September, NATO will also conduct a number of military exercises of its own. Dynamic Guard II will be held in the Mediterranean, Steadfast Pyramid and Steadfast Pinnacle in Latvia, Ramstein Dust II and Brilliant Arrow in Germany, and Ramstein Guard 11 in Slovenia, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. In Poland, from September 25-29, 17 thousand soldiers will participate in the Dragon-17 exercise – the largest military maneuvers held by the Polish Armed Forces this year. Even though Dragon-17 will be primarily a national exercise, NATO states and the allied armed forces will also participate.

Based on: PAP.