Concern over Russia’s training: “Could be preparing for war”

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General Petr Pavel, a senior head figure of NATO’s Military Committee, is warning that Russia could be making “serious preparation for big war” as the country continuously conducts military exercises across eastern Europe.

Pavel spoke out as President Putin and the Kremlin oversaw live-fire drills, including the launch of a nuclear-capable missile in the Leningrad Oblast region on Monday. Russia announced via news network RT that it carried out a successful test of the advanced Iskander-M ballistic missile at the Kapustin Yar range. The missile flew 480km before successfully hitting its target, the site reported.

Pavel also holds concern about Putin’s troops. Moscow claims 13,000 soldiers are taking part in their arsenal of drills. However, Pavel believes the true number to be as high as 100,000 troops.

“Altogether, what we see is a serious preparation for big war,” Pavel said. “When we only look at the exercise that is presented by Russia there should be no worry. But when we look it in the big picture, we have to be worried, because Russia was not transparent.”

Two weeks ago, Pavel met in person with the Russian military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Pavel said the meeting was “mainly focused on transparency and risk reduction and avoidance of unintended consequences of potential incidents.”

However, despite assurances from Moscow that “NATO is not considered as an enemy” and that “the exercise is not aimed at NATO,” concerns still remain high.

“We have a high concentration of troops in the Baltics. We have a high concentration of troops in the Black Sea and potential for an incident may be quite high because of a human mistake, because of a technology failure,” said Pavel said. “We have to be sure that such an unintended incident will not escalate into conflict.”

Pavel spoke out at an annual conference of NATO military chiefs in the Albanian capital of Tirana where they discussed eliminating terrorism, the situation in the Western Balkans and the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Photos and video can be seen here.

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