by WorldTribune Staff, July 23, 2020
Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered a massive combat readiness check for his nation’s military.
The exercise, which began on July 17, included 56 separate drills and took place at 52 training ranges, TASS reported. In total, some 150,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 26,000 vehicles and equipment, as well as 100 warships and support vessels, participated.
Units from the Southern and Western military districts, including marine infantry and Northern and Pacific fleets were all involved. Airborne forces were also deployed.
Although Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that the drill was not aimed at other countries, several analysts and observers have noted the reality that Moscow and Washington have been having increased tensions with several incidents involving aircraft interceptions in both the Mediterranean and Pacific.
Russian Su-35s flew near a U.S. P-8 in May, and U.S. F-22s found a Russian IL-38 in June near Alaska. Russia claimed in recent months it has seen numerous incidents with U.S. drones and other aircraft near Russia’s borders.
The U.S. Navy and Ukraine recently conducted Sea Breeze 20 naval drills in the Black Sea near Russia. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Porter, 400 U.S. sailors and 2,000 other personnel from various countries participated. In June, around 3,000 NATO personnel from 19 countries took part in the BALTOPS naval exercise near Russia in the Baltic.
“Russia’s massive drill was thus a way to show its readiness as well. The number of troops allegedly involved was massive, far larger than anything that the various smaller NATO drills have put in the field. This was a clear message to its neighbors and the region of what Moscow’s power looks like,” the Jerusalem Post’s Seth J. Frantzman noted.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, deputy commander of the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said that U.S. troops in Syria interact with Russian troops in the region almost every day — but most of the interactions are not contentious.
“We coexist in some of the same spaces,” Ekman said. “As we do that, we abide by the deconfliction protocols. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, we see each other all the time.”
The comments come after Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the counter-ISIS coalition, shared a video on Twitter that appears to depict a confrontation between U.S. and Russian troops in Syria. He tweeted U.S. troops are subjected to harassment from Russian troops on a “daily basis” as he pressed President Donald Trump to “pick up the phone and tell Putin to stop harassing our troops.”
“What you might call harassment, which is, less than absolute professional conduct between the Russians and the U.S., occurs on rare occasions,” Ekman said.
Trump plays golf as US forces in Syria now on a daily basis confront Russians thanks to his impetuous decision to abandon 2/3 of once-stable ground to Putin and Erdogan. Mr. President: Pick up the phone and tell Putin to stop harassing our troops.👇pic.twitter.com/hzukdWzVKl
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) July 18, 2020