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Continued Scare-Mongering against Russia—NATO Demands More Transparency from Russia on Zapad Exercise

Aug. 31, 2017 (EIRNS)—NATO is sending three experts to observe the Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 exercise, which is scheduled to run from Sept. 14-20, but is still complaining that it doesn’t have the access it wants. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the three experts will attend "Visitors’ Days" in Belarus and Russia after they were invited to attend, reports the Associated Press. But she said international rules—she is referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Vienna Document that governs transparency of military exercises by both NATO and Russia—permit monitors to have much wider access, including briefings on the exercise, opportunities to talk to soldiers, and overflights.

Lungescu claimed that the invitations that NATO received are not a substitute for real observation under the Vienna Document.

"Russia and Belarus are instead choosing a selective approach that falls short. Such avoidance of mandatory transparency only raises questions about the nature and purpose of the exercise,"

she said.

Adding to such scare-mongering is the deployment of additional U.S. F-15C fighter jets to Lithuania during the period of the Zapad exercise. The U.S. has taken over the Baltic air policing mission this quarter, but instead of deploying the usual four aircraft, sent seven instead, to join the extra 600 airborne troops that have also been deployed in Lithuania.

Russia, of course, has rejected the claims made against the Zapad exercise by NATO and sympathetic news media outlets. Pushback is also coming from some unexpected directions, such as the Latvian Ambassador to Moscow Maris Riekstins, who warned against such hysterics during an appearance on national television earlier today. "We should be vigilant, but do not need to be hysterical," he said. Riekstins called the invitations of Russia and Belarus to send Latvia’s monitors to the drills a positive gesture, but said that there still should be more transparency. Latvia is among those countries that have been invited to send observers and is sending three.

Simon Saradzhyan, a research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, writing in an article on the Belfer Center "Russia Matters" blog, not only debunks the fear-mongering about the exercise, but also takes on the matter of transparency that NATO is putting so much stress on. While transparency could be improved, it

"will not qualitatively diminish the chance of a conflict. That possibility will continue to loom large as long as the underlying causes of potential conflict are not addressed, such as Russia’s concerns about NATO’s expansion to the post-Soviet space and Western allies’ concerns about Russia’s use of force against neighbors."