As Russia embarks on its biggest show of strength since the Cold War ended, its neighbours and the West are right to feel nervous
The sights and sounds of Russian military exercises are intimidating and spectacular. Giant hovercrafts roar up beaches and disgorge grim-faced soldiers. Attack helicopters blast targets on the ground. Tanks hurtle across the countryside. Since the near-debacle of the Georgian war in 2008, Russia has developed a striking ability to move large formations of people and equipment quickly and efficiently over long distances.
The Zapad exercise that starts on Thursday in western Russia and Belarus will be the biggest display of Russian military might since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Though much about the exercise, including the numbers involved, are still unknown, the ostensible scenario is defensive: three fictitious rogue states called Veishnoria, Vesbaria and Lubenia attack Belarus, which defends itself with Russian help.