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Estonia: Going on a Bear Hunt

Estonia: Going on a Bear Hunt
From Al Jazeera - September 14, 2017

Russia says that no more than 12,700 of its troops will be participating in what are purely defensive exercises; NATO officials say the real number of Russian military personnel involved could reach 100,000 and are part of a muscular display of firepower aimed at unsettling some of the more vulnerable members of the Western alliance.

It's a grumbling dispute over war games being staged along Russia's northwestern borders this September, that has not yet become a full-blown quarrel, but can perhaps be seen as a sign of the times.

Armies the world over routinely send their troops on exercise; checking out the fighting skills, battle-readiness and tactical nous of their forces, playing with new equipment and putting such things as command structures, supply lines, medical backup and interservice cooperation to the test. What, after all, is the point of having armed forces if they do not train and practise and you do not know whether or not they can do what they are designed for?

In that sense, at least, this month's Zapad exercises, as the Russians are calling them, are no more remarkable than any of the other manoeuvres its troops annually undertakeor indeed those of NATO or China or Japan or India or any other country or alliance with formally constituted armed forces.

But of course, context is everything and the Russian 2017 war games are taking place after three years of mounting tension along its borders with Europe, in the still-turbulent backwash of its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and when relations with the West, over everything from Russia's military support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad to perceived interference in the US presidential elections, have become increasingly tetchy.

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