Russia held a big military exercise this week. Here’s why the U.S. is paying attention

The Washington Post reports: The vast Russian military exercises that ended this week showed off a muscular fighting force practicing state-on-state warfare, NATO’s deputy military commander said, in one of the first assessments of a large-scale operation that put Russia’s neighbors on nervous alert.

The Zapad exercise, which rehearsed a conflict along Russia’s western borders, showed off a force that was marshaling itself “probably more quickly, more efficiently, with this underlying message that if you thought we were in decay, we’re not,” NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, British Gen. James Everard, said in an interview.

The exercise, whose active phase ended Wednesday, is an every-four-years effort that was held this month for the first time since Russia in 2014 annexed Crimea from Ukraine then sparked war in the eastern part of the country. Because Russia used exercises as cover ahead of both its operations in Ukraine and its 2008 invasion of Georgia, its neighbors were cautious this time as the Kremlin fired up its military machine.

Now Western allies are sifting through intelligence reports and starting the arduous work of assessing Russia’s military capability, which is deep into a reform that has translated the force from a neglected and struggling group into one that for two years has been able to project power into Syria, far from Russia’s borders. [Continue reading…]

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