WASHINGTON, August 9 (RIA Novosti) – The United States has accepted Russia’s invitation to send US military experts to monitor the upcoming large-scale military exercise Zapad-2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.
“We have invited them to attend Zapad-2013 drills and they have eagerly accepted our invitation,” Shoigu said at a news conference following talks between the Russian and US foreign policy and defense chiefs in Washington.
Zapad-2013 is a joint Russian-Belarusian exercise due to be held in September. It will involve over 13,000 personnel, about 250 combat vehicles and some 60 aircraft and helicopters.
The drills will take place in Belarus and in Russia’s Western Military District, as well as in the Barents and Baltic seas, according to the Russian General Staff.
Shoigu emphasized that invitation of foreign observers to attend military exercises should be used as a tool to build trust between countries and said that this practice will continue and expand in the future.
The Russian minister also noted general progress in US-Russian military cooperation despite the existence of some sticking points.
He mentioned, in particular, an agreement to intensify contacts on the level of deputy defense ministers, the introduction of regular videoconferencing between military leadership of both countries, and the expansion of the list of joint events in 2014.
“We have not noticed any threats [to bilateral military cooperation] so far,” Shoigu said.