TALLINN - On Sept. 20, Russia and Belarus will begin large-scale military exercises on Baltic borders in western Belarus, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and in the Baltic Sea, reports LETA. According to official information from Russia, the aim of the exercises is to train soldiers to “liquidate illegal military groups and stabilize the situation in the responsible territory;” however, it is believed that the exercises will simulate an invasion of the Baltics.
The Zapad 2013 military exercises will take place from Sept. 20 to 26. 9,400 soldiers are expected to participate in the exercises in Russian territory, while another 2,500 soldiers are expected to join in the territory of Belarus.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that the training attack against Sweden that Russia held earlier this year was a wake-up call for the Baltic Sea region, the on-line edition of the Estonian newspaper Postimees reports.
“Generally, we see the incident as a wake-up call for the whole Baltic Sea region. Complacency with the security situation has emerged here. But we do not live in a world of eternal peace. Now, we have the Zapad 2013 exercise ahead of us, where Russia will practice conquering the Baltic States,” Ilves said in an interview in the Sept. 17 issue of Svenska Dagbladet.
Ilves stressed that anyone who attacks a Baltic State must be prepared to face all of NATO. Svenska Dagbladet revealed on April 22 this year that Russian bomber planes practiced attacking Sweden at night. Sweden was late to respond to the exercise, while NATO Danish fighter planes based in Lithuania reacted.
“I am proud that the NATO Danish fighter planes were the only ones to react,” said Ilves. “They were far from the Russians, but they still reacted.”