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While Chrenkoff Slept

Back in September, while on the road in Europe, I reported on the welcome I was about to receive:

With an impeccable timing, The Daily Chrenk will arrive in Warsaw only hours before one of the largest joint Russian-Belorussian military exercises directed against Poland and Lithuania is about to start:

A battle is about to be waged in Eastern Europe. In it, the forces of “The Northern Ones” will defend against the aggression of the “Western Ones”.

“Belarus and the Kaliningrad region have been infiltrated by extremist groups with the intention of committing terrorist attacks,” Moscow’s summary of the exercise reads. “The illegal militias are backed from abroad, providing them with armaments and naval and air capabilities. In order to neutralise the opponents, land forces will be deployed to cut off their access to sea and block air corridors in the region, with the support of the air force, air defence forces, and the navy.”

The combined forces of Russia and its closest European ally Belarus (The Northern Ones) will seek to reinforce the Baltic Sea enclave Kaliningrad against the hypothetical nations of “Vesbaria” and “Lubenia” as the internationally-backed terrorists of “Veishnoria” seek to overthrow Belarus.

As Poland and Lithuania straddle and control the approaches to Kaliningrad, there is little doubt who Lubenia and Vesbaria are. The area inside Belarus designated as Veishnoria is centred on the historic city of Grodno, which still contains a large Polish minority.

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Needless to say, Russia insisted the exercise was purely defensive, dealing with terrorism and insurgency threats to their own territory. Needless to say too, Western military commentators were sceptical. I finished my piece with my tongue partly in cheek: “Whatever happens, I will be reporting live from central and southern Lubenia, as Russian tanks roll only a few hundred kilometres to the east. Zapad, after all, is pretty close to a Polish word ‘napad’, which means assault or aggression.”

Not surprisingly, it transpires now that there was a lot more to Zapad, and I mean a LOT:

Russia has practised a full-scale mock invasion of the West that includes capturing Baltic states, bombing Germany and invading neutral countries, it has been revealed.

The terrifying war drills were carried out in September and featured troops, artillery, tanks, missile attacks and naval and air force raids.

Details of the Vladimir Putin’s so-called “Zapad” (West) exercises were revealed by analysts from two leading intelligence agencies, Bild reported. They did not specify the methods used to collect the intel.

At the time, Putin claimed the exercises were for anti-terror purposes and were purely defensive in nature.

However, the paper reported that the drills were a dry-run for a “shock campaign” against Western European NATO countries.

This included first overrunning the Sulwalki Gap – a 60 mile stretch of NATO land that connects the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad with its ally Belarus.

It practised this by creating a mock state on an identical piece of land in Belarus then invading it.

At the same time, the analysts said, the Kremlin also rehearsed “neutralising or taking under control air fields and harbours (in eastern Europe), so there are no reinforcements arriving from other NATO states there”…

Over two days, Russian fighter jets also flew mock sorties through the Baltic and North Seas, swooping down onto the edges of Germany and the Netherlands.

These were designed to be a practice run for destroying high-value targets such as power reactors, airports and other forces, including naval battalions, practised invading neutral Finland, as well as Sweden, Norway and Poland.

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I’ve blogged about the Suwalki Gap before (“There used to be a more innocent time online – not that long ago, actually – when the ‘gap’ that everyone was talking about was the unhealthy trend of too-skinny girls’ and women’s thighs not touching, creating the said gap in a silhouette… Quite like the other ‘gap’, the Suwalki one is the gap between the thighs of the Eastern Europe through which the Eastern Europe is the most likely to get f***ed, should Putin ever press the button”). It remains one of the most likely flashpoints in the Eastern Europe.

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Poland and the Baltic states did not get invaded and Germany was not bombed, while I slept the sleep of the innocent in Warsaw. But nearly three decades after the end of the Cold War, the chill continues to blow from the east. Russia still dreams of the past greatness and its lost empires – both the tsarist and the communist ones. She is not interested in becoming a normal country, which thrives in the international community and is friendly with its neighbors, the way Germany has become after the Second World War. Russia currently resembles more the post-First World War Germany, humbled and defeated but not destroyed, conquered, occupied and transformed. She seethes with humiliation, resentment and revanchism against her former dominions, which have managed to slip from its imperial grasp. Post-Soviet Union Russia has had its Weimar years under Boris Yeltsin, and is now having its Hitler-lite years under Vladimir Putin. Let’s hope that the past quarter of a century has not been merely another armed truce between the wars.

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