"We have to be sure that such an unintended incident will not escalate into conflict," said head of NATO'S Military Committe Gen. Petr Pavel
In this photo taken on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, Belarusian army vehicles drive during the war games at an undisclosed location in Belarus, photo: Vayar Military Agency via AP
16 of September 2017 18:18:07
TIRANA – A senior NATO official says there's reason to be concerned about the large-scale Zapad 2017 military maneuvers being conducted now by Russia and Belarus, since they could be seen as "a serious preparation for big war."Gen. Petr Pavel, head of NATO's Military Committee, told a news agency in an interview Saturday that NATO is increasing efforts to re-establish the military-to-military communications with Russia to avoid any "unintended consequences of potential incidents during the exercise."The defense chiefs of NATO member countries were holding their annual conference this year in the Albanian capital of Tirana to discuss fighting terrorism, the situation in the Western Balkans and the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan.The Zapad war games, being conducted this year mostly in Belarus, run until Sept. 20 and reportedly involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops.Despite assurances from Moscow that "NATO is not considered as an enemy" and that "the exercise is not aimed at NATO," Pavel said Russians have not been transparent about the facts of the exercises. He says the number of troops in the exercises — which the Russians say is about 12,700 — could actually be between 70,000 to 100,000."All together, what we see is a serious preparation for big war," he told the news agency. "When we only look at the exercise that is presented by Russia there should be no worry. But when we look it in the big picture, we have to be worried, because Russia was not transparent."