CLOSE

For the very first time, staffers from the president’s election campaign are reportedly providing documents to Robert Mueller, special counsel in the Trump Russia investigation. Aaron Dickens reports.
Buzz60

LONDON — Russia’s military kicks off a week of combat exercises Thursday that NATO warned could be practice for aggressive action against its Eastern European neighbors.

Russia’s defense ministry said the large-scale drills, called Zapad 2017, involve 12,700 troops, 70 aircraft, 250 tanks and 10 warships.The war games will run through Sept. 20 in Russia and Belarus, a former Soviet republic — across the border from NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. 

In its official summary of the exercises, Russia’s defense ministry said the drills would see “the Northern ones” — Russia and its allies — stand up to aggression from “the Western ones.” The drill scenario says Belarus and the Kaliningrad region have been infiltrated by extremist groups that want to commit terrorist attacks.

Germany and several NATO members dispute Moscow’s description that only 12,700 troops will participate in the drills, saying Russia has committed more than 100,000 troops to the war games. 

“It is undisputed that we are seeing a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. “Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of participating forces in the Zapad exercise.”

NATO and Russia have agreed that any military exercises involving more than 30,000 troops should be subject to international monitors. The drills have been planned for months and are not a reaction to U.S. sanctions against Russia that Congress approved last month for alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election, its annexation of Crimea and ongoing military operations in eastern Ukraine.