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In terms of this year's Zapad exercise, what concerns some officials and experts is they aren't exactly sure how big they will be.
There are also questions about Putin's true intention.
NATO has reinforced its position in Eastern Europe, now maintaining a rotating force of 4,000 in Poland and the Baltics.
But hypothetical scenarios played out by the Rand Corporation last year found that it would take Russian forces just 60 hours to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga.
The Kremlin has little to gain from using Zapad 2017 as a pretext to establish military presence in Belarus.
Belarus, a small but proud post-Soviet nation lodged between NATO and Russia, has a long relationship with Moscow.
Other Western officials, including the head of the U. Hodges made the comment in a Reuters interview in July.
But following months of uncertainty surrounding NATO — caused by Trump's mixed messages — this year's Zapad exercise may be designed to test the alliance's resolve."Russia is not organizing defensive operations but instead an offensive threat, testing how serious we are about protecting the members of NATO," said Jonathan Eyal, international director of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank.
While Zapad is the largest exercise planned for this year, it is also just one of several military exercises Moscow carried out jointly with Minsk.
Belarus continues to view Russia as its principal strategic military partner and seems likely to do so in the future.