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Baltops 2016: Why NATO's War-Games in Baltics Worry Russia

© AP Photo / JANEK SKARZYNSKINATO troops make a massive amphibious landing off the coast of Ustka, northern Poland, during NATO military sea exercises BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) 2015 in the Baltic Sea
NATO troops make a massive amphibious landing off the coast of Ustka, northern Poland, during NATO military sea exercises BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) 2015 in the Baltic Sea - Sputnik International
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The North Atlantic Alliance has strained every nerve to build up its military capabilities in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, with three major war-games topping these efforts in June. Russia perceives NATO's saber-rattling more as a "headache" that distracts the country from dealing with real challenges, military expert Ilya Kramnik asserted.

Soldiers park their amphibious vehicles on a ship as they participate in a massive amphibious landing during NATO sea exercises BALTOPS 2015 that are to reassure the Baltic Sea region allies in the face of a resurgent Russia, in Ustka, Poland, Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Russia's response to NATO's activities has largely remained on the "precrisis" level, the analyst wrote for the news website Lenta.ru. The crisis in this case refers to the tensions between Russia and the West that were sparked by the outbreak of the Ukrainian civil war and Crimea's reunification with Russia.

Russia's deployments in the last two years "clearly show" what the country's priorities are. Moscow has been focused on areas to the south and southeast — in case conflicts in Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia flare up. Not to mention that Russia's present battle missions take place in Syria. 

"In this context, standoff with NATO is viewed as a headache that requires extremely costly and time-consuming efforts that siphon resources away from priority tasks," the analyst observed.

© Sputnik / Alexander Zabolotny / Go to the photo bankThe USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, has reached the port of Tallinn, Estonia, to take part in the NATO international military exercise, Baltops (Baltic Operations).
The USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, has reached the port of Tallinn, Estonia, to take part in the NATO international military exercise, Baltops (Baltic Operations). - Sputnik International
The USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, has reached the port of Tallinn, Estonia, to take part in the NATO international military exercise, Baltops (Baltic Operations).

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Alliance has been engaged in three large-scale military exercises close to Russia's borders. These include Baltops, Saber Strike and Anakonda. Approximately 6,100 troops from 17 countries take part in the former. A total of 10,000 soldiers are taking part in the US-led Saber Strike 2016, while the Polish-led Anakonda drills involved more than 25,000 troops from 24 states.

US Army soldiers representing units participating in the the Anaconda-16 military exercise, attend the opening ceremony, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, June 6, 2016. - Sputnik International
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​In Kramnik's opinion, NATO's military exercises in the Baltics "do not create brand new threats" to Moscow. However, the bloc's overall strategy, including its latest decision to deploy additional troops close to Russia's borders "does nothing to promote security in the region."

The North Atlantic Alliance plans to deploy four multinational battalions to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland on a rotational basis. The UK, responsible for manning one framework battalion, wants to field its force in early 2017.

This move will be formally adopted at the NATO summit in Warsaw, slated to be held next month. It will be, as NATO officials have said, one of several measures aimed at reinforcing the bloc's collective defense from multiple threats. An "aggressive" and "resurgent" Russia, as hardliners in the US and Europe describe it, is viewed as one of them, although Moscow has repeatedly said that it does not pose a threat to its neighbors and beyond.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks to media in Helsinki, Finland - Sputnik International
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Kramnik begged to differ. NATO's move, in his opinion, is not linked to any real security concerns in the region.

"The Baltic states and Poland want to preserve Russia's image as an enemy," the analyst explained.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the bloc's war-gaming was damaging to regional security and relations with Russia.

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