Russia’s unscheduled war games in the Black Sea that began on Thursday without prior notice have taken the West by surprise, with NATO calling on Moscow to show greater openness.
President Vladimir Putin issued a snap order to launch large-scale naval and air manoeuvres in the Black Sea at 4 a.m. on Thursday when he was on the way back from the BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa.
On Friday Mr. Putin watched sea landing operations as part of the surprise three-day drill that involves 36 warships, 20 aircraft and 7,000 troops.
The Kremlin said the main goal of the exercise was to check “combat readiness and coordination among the various branches of the Armed Forces”.
Russia’s unannounced military muscle flexing has caused unease in Brussels. The war games are being held in a strategic region within striking distance of several NATO countries and Georgia, with whom Russia fought a war in 2008.
“In future it would be useful to make our relations more predictable and ensure maximum transparency,” the Interfax news agency quoted NATO Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow as commenting on the Black Sea drill.
A ranking NATO diplomat told the Russian business daily Kommersant that even though Russia was not obliged to notify NATO of the war games, “partners should not act like this”.
Mr. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Russia was under no obligation to give advance warning of military exercises as long as they involved fewer than 7,000 ground troops.
Moreover, naval manoeuvres do not require any notification at all.
The current military drill is the second snap manoeuvre Russia has conducted this year after a break of 20 years.