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That is not a bug, but rather a feature of Russian General Staff planning, inherently obfuscating what is and what is not actually part of these large scale exercises to avoid fulfilling political commitments under the Vienna Document.
Somewhat surprisingly, Zapad 2017 was perhaps one of Russia’s more modest annual strategic exercises to date, though that should in no way undersell its significance.
That said, Zapad 2017, like other strategic exercises, implied that this option is not only on the table, but very much an integral component of Russian thinking about deterrence in conflict and escalation control.
The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members.
The first phase countered an incursion made by irregular adversary formations intended to destabilize Belarus, and the second a de facto escalation against a NATO led military operation, which Russia invariably defeats.
In this regard it was not dissimilar to Zapad 2013 (the exercises rotate between four strategic directions making Zapad a quadrennial event).