Russia has deployed 12,000 troops along with numerous aircraft and weapons in a surprise military exercise in the country’s northwest — a show of strength that may be a response to a long-planned European military exercise led by Norway.
The Russian news agency Tass, quoting the country’s defense ministry, reported Monday that the exercise involves as many as 250 combat planes and helicopters and 689 units of “various weapons and military equipment.”
Cruise missiles will be aimed at an “imaginary enemy,” the report said.
The seemingly competing military exercises come as tension is increasing along a range of former Soviet states — from Moldova in the south to Latvia, 900 miles to the north — over whether they will fall under the influence of Russia or the West.
The EU and NATO eye these states as potential members, and indeed Latvia, for example, is already a member of both organizations. But Russia views that as a threat.
Part of that struggle has involved the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and its encouragement of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
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