At a moment when NATO is expanding up to Russia's Western border and with “non-aligned” Scandinavian countries Sweden and Finland increasingly cooperating in NATO war games, one major element to the games sure to attract the attention of Washington military planners is the inclusion of simulated nuclear weapons attacks.

In response to the impending Vostok-18 games Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon announced late last month, “We urge Russia to take steps to share information regarding its exercises and operations in Europe to clearly convey its intentions and minimize and potential misunderstanding.” Prior Pentagon reports suggest the games will be closely watched by US intelligence agencies especially due to Russia's willingness to simulate nuclear combat.  On Monday Russian state sources began publishing dramatic footage of the extent of the military deployment on the eve of the exercises beginning.  Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia's general staff, described some of strategic maneuvers to be employed in the games: “There are plans to practice massive air strikes, cruise missile training, defensive and offensive operations, raids, and bypass maneuvers.” And this unusual commandeering of a civilian highway:  * * * Putin is expected to observe the exercises this week first-hand in the far eastern region alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing them. As president, Putin has the title of armed forces commander-in-chief.

Halted motorists filmed the amazing scenes as they got a grandstand view for the military exercise close to the Chinese border in the Russian Far East.   Meanwhile, the US-funded official news source VOA News has cited experts who dispute the Russian defense ministry's much touted numbers on total troop deployment.

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is.” “And they typically revise the numbers after the fact,” Kofman added.

“For example, originally after Vostok 2014, they said that they had 100,000 participants, and then I guess they decided it wasn't impressive enough, because they later posted an official figure of 155,000.” * * *  A map of estimated deployment numbers, via VOA News:.

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