After weeks on NATO officials panicking about it, Russia’s Zapad wargames with neighboring Belarus are finally getting underway, and as Russia had been reporting from the start, it appears indeed to amount to about 13,000 Russian and Belorussian troops. It’s a large exercise, but by no means huge.
NATO has been predicting the Zapad games would quickly bulge to over 100,000 troops, and have speculated it would morph into a full-scale invasion of Poland and the Baltic states. It’s just the latest in years of NATO predictions of a Russian invasion that isn’t materializing.
Instead, it appears Russia is delivering exactly what it said, a 13,000-man training exercise. This still has NATO trying to come up with other problems with Zapad, suggesting it might lead to a “permanent” Russian presence in Belarus.
This appears to be pure speculation as well, though even if it did happen, it’s not clear why NATO would view it as a problem. The wargames are expected to last around a week, and NATO will likely continue to express concerns about different imagined threats throughout this time.