Vladimir Putin is being tested by NATO, who have sent thousands of troops to the Russian border
More than 1,200 soldiers, also from Germany, Slovakia, Romania, Luxembourg, Canada, Bulgaria, Estonia, Sweden and Latvia are carrying out high intensity drills as part of the “Russia-deterrence”.
The exercises include air defence against weapons of mass destruction, artillery drills and reconnaissance as the sabre-rattling Russian strongman continues his fierce rhetoric amid growing global tensions.
Operation Summer Shield, as it has been dubbed, has been organised by NATO to prepare for a multi-national operation in Iraq, but, according to Latvian national armed forces commander, Leonidas Kalnins, a joint Russian and Belarusian invasion is on the cards.
Mr Kalnins said the Russian-Belarusian drills, known as Zapad 2017, are a risk to Latvia’s national security.
But the Russian Foreign Ministry has railed against NATO’s build up of forces along its border.
NATO troops are engaging in a series of heavily militarised drills
A spokesman said: “They always have one thing on their mind: the ‘Russian threat’ myth, ‘Russian aggression’ slander and endless mantras about the need to confront it collectively.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov added: “This deployment is, of course, a threat for us.”
He fears the military presence could “gravely increase the number of incidents”.
4,000 NATO troops take part in Lithuania’s largest exercise near Russia’s border
Mon, November 28, 2016
Eleven NATO countries have sent 4,000 troops to Lithuania, the largest Baltic nation, to participate in this year’s Iron Sword exercises. The war games are meant to test the country’s ability to rapidly deploy a large number of troops.
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Members of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade fire blanks from a machine gun during a simulated attack
Mr Meshkov promised Moscow would respond to any threat “proportionally”.
This is not the first time NATO troops have stoked tensions in the Eastern bloc.
As recently as early April, NATO sent 1,350 troops to northeast Poland and 800 British soldiers were deployed to Estonia in March.
They are there to prepare for Iraq conflict, but also to guard against a Russian invasion of Latvia
British RAF fighters are also set to travel to Romania in May.
Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko has spoken out against the regular displays of military might in the region, saying: “We deplore that deployment for it raises tensions in Europe along the border between NATO and Russia. Russia doesn’t pose any threat to Estonia nor any other NATO member state.”