Finnish expert: Russia’s Zapad 2017 war games were not anti-Nato drills

Many Finnish eyebrows were raised in concern when Russian and Belarusian carried out the week-long Zapad 2017 joint military exercises in regions across the two countries in September.

But Juhani Pihlajamaa, a Russian military specialist at Finland’s National Defence University, says that while a comprehensive Finnish analysis of the Zapad 2017 drills is not yet complete, he doesn’t think the drills were meant to be interpreted as threat towards Nato.

Western media outlets, including Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, reported the drills were a clear signal from Moscow that it was preparing for a major confrontation with Nato forces.

Pihlajamaa told Svenska Yle the exercises were “not Nato attack drills.”

He said military drills carried out by any country, including Russia’s, always include some element of attack preparations.

But Pihlajamaa said the drill was actually less aggressive than it could have been, saying that they did not include testing of the Iskander short range missile system in Kaliningrad this year, as they did a year ago.