All quiet on the eastern front

Russian soldiers yell at the Red Square during the Victory Day military parade general rehearsal in Moscow on May 7, 2016 / AFP / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

In a gentleman’s club in the Lithuanian town of Visaginas, less than 30 kilometers from the Belarusian border, a group of men are playing pool. Some drink beer, others order glass flasks of vodka, and frustrated yet well-humored exclamations of “yolki palki”  — Russian for “darn it” — punctuate the clicks of billiard balls.

I approach a short, broad Dagestani man. He works in municipal government, he says, but won’t tell me his name. Is he scared of his eastern neighbors, primarily Russia? In the silence, he takes a step closer toward me. Our stomachs are practically touching. Suddenly, he throws his head back and laughs. “Me? Afraid of Putin?” he asks incredulously.

The international community has been on high alert in the run-up to the jointly organized Russia-Belarus Zapad 2017 military exercises, the first of their kind since the exercises that provided cover for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The exercises — which begin September 14 — will take place in the Republic of Belarus as well as in the Kaliningrad, Leningrad, and Pskov regions, according to Russia’s ministry of defense.

They will observe a scenario in which the fake countries of Veyshnoria (northwestern Belarus), Vesbaria and Lubenia (fragments of Lithuania and Poland respectively) foment discord in the region…

Read more : Politico, Sept 2017