Russia has begun its biggest war game in years on land, in the air, and on the sea bordering NATO's smallest and weakest member states. No fewer than 12,000 troops, 70 warplanes, 250 tanks, and 10 warships are officially scheduled to wage mock warfare from Sept. 14 to Sept. 20 in Belarus and Russia and on the Baltic and Barents Seas.
The "Zapad 2017" training exercise, a joint effort between the Russian and Belarusian militaries, involves some of the latest Russian-made weaponry. But the war game is equally notable for the weapons that aren't involved.
Despite a resurgence under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow's armed forces still can't deploy stealth fighters or the latest tank models. And Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the aged Admiral Kuznetsov, is also unavailable for training.
The equipment shortfalls help to explain why Jussi Niinistö, Finland's defense minister, described Zapad 2017 as a propaganda exercise. "Western countries have taken the bait completely," Niinistö said. "They've plugged the exercises so much."