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At least 40,000 troops may be engaged in NATO drills in Europe

From June to November, NATO will hold over 15 drills in Eastern Europe and approximately the same number in the Black Sea region, Russian diplomat has emphasized

BRUSSELS, July 13. /TASS/. Over 40,000 troops will be engaged in dozens of NATO military exercises in Europe between June and November, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said on Thursday after a NATO-Russia Council meeting.

"From June to November, NATO will hold over 15 drills in Eastern Europe and approximately the same number in the Black Sea region," he said.

"If a total number of their participants is counted, it will be over 40,000 people."

"We once again drew NATO’s attention to our proposal concerning a meeting of military experts who could use maps in order to assess actual military capabilities, without getting emotional," he said.

"Our idea is to provide the militaries with an opportunity to discuss all the factors that influence the security situation, including military build-up and the rotation of troops," Grushko said. "We believe that without building normal contacts between the militaries, it is hard to understand what is going on and avoid misunderstandings," the Russian envoy noted.

Moscow and NATO have held briegings concerning the Zapad-2017 and Trident Javelin military exercises during the Russia-NATO Council meeting, he went on. 

"This is the first stage of providing information about these military drills," he said following the meeting. "The Russian Defense Ministry will hold a similar briefing on the OSCE platform and an expanded briefing in Moscow ahead of the drills, which are still being planned," he added.

According to the envoy, Russia has held the briefing in order to put an end to speculations and the spread of groundless accusations against Moscow.

"In the past months, we have been hearing many scary stories about the Zapad-2017 drills, there have been a lot of speculations saying that the exercises would be used as a pretext for military build-up and the implementation of some aggressive plans against some NATO countries and so on," Grushko said.

"In response to our NATO counterparts’ concern, Russia’s Defense Ministry has provided more detailed information about the military drills," he went on to say. "Today, our military representatives have held a detailed briefing speaking about the goas of the drills, the training ranges where the exercises will be held, the deployment of troops, as well as about the main kinds of military hardware planned to be used," the Russian envoy said.

However, in Grushko’s words, the drills are still being planned, so final information will be provided later, at a briefing in Moscow.

Thursday’s ambassadorial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council was the second one this year. The first meeting was held in Brussels on March 30.