Speaking during a panel at the Warsaw Security Forum on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Tomasz Piotrowski, who leads Poland’s Armed Forces Operational Command, said the exercise enabled Moscow to test offensive measures against the alliance’s Eastern European members.
“We have no doubts that Russia is very determined to regain the stage as a global power,” Piotrowski said. “When Russia plans to execute exercises, we suffer a lot, not only during the exercises. Russia uses … [information warfare], provocations, coercion, spying and [cyber operations]. These were all executed during the Zapad 2021 exercise.”
The Polish commander said hostile actions against NATO’s Eastern European began long before Zapad officially began in September.
The Russian military “announced already in January 2021 that the Zapad exercise had begun. Land exercises will take place until October 2021,” he added.
Russian government news agency Tass reported July 2 that the country’s National Guard would hold the Zaslon 2021 drill later that month as part of the overarching Zapad exercise.
According to Piotrowski, this year’s edition of Zapad “was bigger than Zapad 2020 and 2019 — not by the number of troops, but for sure by the capabilities that were used, types of units, such as airborne, special forces, maritime and others.”
Russia’s Defence Ministry described the exercise as “strategic,” stating that more than 200,000 troops from Russia and Belarus participated.
However, Lt. Gen. Andreas Marlow, commander of the 1st German-Dutch Corps in Münster, Germany, said during the same panel that one of the challenges NATO faces is “a difference of threat perception.”
“Allies who border with Russia have a different threat perception than those who do not,” Marlow said.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.