On ELN’s Brief on Dangers of NATO and RF Training Against Each Other

So I have read European Leadership Network’s policy brief on risks posed by Russian NATO and Russian exercises that show that each side is training with the other side’s capabilities and most likely war plans in mind. The authors warn that while one side may aim its training actions at strengthening deterrence and preparing for defensive actions, the other side perceives the same exercises as provocative and deliberate aggravation of the crisis.  They also warn that such heightened training activity increases the risk of the dangerous military encounters between Russian and Western military units, and give recommendations on how to reduce these risks.
While I find most recommendations useful (though none of them are new and some call for things already in place to a certain extent), I don’t fully share the authors’ alarmism with exercises per se. Yes, increased patrolling increases risks, but exercises are part of the military's routine.  After all, it is the military’s job to plan for worst-case scenarios, so it is difficult to either blame NATO and RF militaries for training to fight each other on each other’s territory, given the significant deterioration of the Western-Russian relations. In fact,  Russia had been doing that for years during the Zapad (West) exercises even before this deterioration.
What I find more alarming, but what the brief doesn’t mention, are exercise of the kind that the upcoming joint NATO-Ukraine exercise in Ukraine belong to . This exercise essentially provides for NATO to send troops to help Ukraine repel an armed attack by Russia. Now, of course, the official scenario of the exercise doesn't mention Russia. Rather it says that "a multinational force is sent to assist the host nation and the challenge is to bring together and train a multinational brigade, which would then be sent to assist the host nation in its defense," according to Defense News. However, it is obvious what country (Russia) the host nation (Ukraine) would defend against. It is also clear that no non-aligned nations in Europe would contribute troops to a brigade that would be sent off to fight Russia, and, therefore, that hypothetical brigade can only be manned with NATO forces (perhaps, some of the official candidate nations might contribute personnel to).
If NATO’s intention is to signal through this upcoming wargame to Russia that the alliance would be prepared to put boots on the ground in FSU outside Baltics to help post-Soviet states fight off Russia, then it is a whole different game. That would represent significant change that Russian military strategists would account for in planning and deployments.


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