Jet fighters release flares during the Zapad 2017 war games at a range near the town of Borisov, Belarus September 20, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

Russian Pravda news website reports Tuesday that “Russia does not exclude war with NATO”, following huge military exercises held by Moscow with Belarus last month.

Pravda cites a national security report from the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, which said geopolitical challenges include a “possible military conflict” with NATO countries.

Other pressing issues include “the complicated situation in the Azov-Black Sea region, Japan’s territorial claims to the Kuril Islands, and Norway’s plans for Spitsbergen.”

Experts reportedly emphasize that “the role of the factor of force” has been increasing in international relations. “Therefore, Russia is building up its naval potential for the “strategic deterrence” of potential adversaries and as an “important factor in ensuring international stability.”

The report comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Moscow after Russia conducted huge military exercises with Belarus. The US Army’s commander in Europe said this week that the Zapad war games broke rules for military exercises, as Popular Mechanics reports:

Hodges claims that Russia skirted the rules for Zapad-17 by breaking it up into smaller exercises, concealing the true number, which he estimates at approximately 40,000. This is not the first time Russia has done this, either. Zapad-13 in 2013 was officially pegged at 12,000 troops, but the true number was thought to be between 90,000 and 100,000.

Hodges added that there’s “nothing evil” about the Zapad exercises but that skirting rules undermines confidence building and openness among Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe members.

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