Envoy: Russia, Belarus war games no threat to NATO

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse

Russia assured NATO Wednesday that war games it held with Belarus in September were routine and posed no threat to any members of the military alliance.

Russia's NATO envoy, ambassador Dmitry Rogozin, told reporters that he had briefed his alliance counterparts on the exercises, and expressed surprise that Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski had complained about them. "It was a routine exercise far away, 200 to 300 kilometers away from Polish borders," he told reporters in Brussels, adding: "We were utterly astonished by these comments" from Sikorski.

The war games involved more than 12,000 troops, over 200 tanks, 470 other armored vehicles and 100 aircraft, and were the first in the region for 25 years. The exercises stoked tension in Warsaw, notably after documents obtained by the media showed that the "enemy" bore a strong resemblance to Poland and that the maneuvers included simulated counter-attacks suited to Polish terrain.

Poland complained to NATO, and Sikorski said: "When Russia organizes this kind of exercise on our border, that is a source of concern for us, and we of course relay this concern to the alliance, asking it to take it into account." However Rogozin said Russia believes that "we don't have a serious military threat from the West. "I am astonished that somebody wants to speculate about it," he said, noting that the Russians "completely refuse to accept the conclusions of Sikorsky that these maneuvers were directed against Western countries."

Poland was a Soviet satellite state for four decades, until the Communist bloc began crumbling in 1989. It has been taken regularly to task by Moscow for its pro-U.S. stance since it joined NATO in 1999. Last week, NATO expressed concern about the maneuvers, saying they ran counter to an improvement in ties between Moscow and the military alliance. "Discussion of this exercise and its implications likely will continue within NATO," a spokesman said.


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