The large-scale exercise known as ‘Zapad’ is unnerving NATO officials, who believe it is Russia’s way of provoking the West.

Photo credit: Russian Defense Ministry/Channel 2 News

The Russian army on Thursday launched a large-scale military exercise, its biggest one since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

Russia has claimed that the exercise, which is being conducted in cooperation with the army of Belarus, will include no more than 13,000 troops. However, NATO commanders fear the exercise will be much broader than that and is designed to provoke the West amid ongoing tensions.

Ukraine has already increased its security alert level out of fear that the exercise will be used as a Trojan horse for another Russian invasion.

Photo credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

The objective of the exercise, according to Russia and Belarus, is to improve the cooperation between the two militaries by simulating war games.