Sept. 18 (UPI) -- A NATO military leader said this past weekend that Russia is conducting military exercises near its borders with eastern European NATO countries that appear to be "serious preparation for a big war."
Gen. Petr Pavel, the head of NATO's Military Committee, NATO wants to re-establish military-to-military communications with Russia to avoid "unintended consequences of potential incidents during the exercise," reported CBS News.
The exercises Russia is conducting is part of a week-long program dubbed Zapad 2017 and is taking place along the borders of NATO nations Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as Finland, a non-NATO country. The last time Zapad was conducted was in 2014, shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, causing NATO to have some concern over this year's exercises, although they are carried out regularly every four years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the military exercises Monday and Russian government news site TASS reported that 95 foreign monitors from 50 countries were also present at the event.
"They appear to be interested," Putin said.
This year's "Zapad," which means "west" in Russian, involved more than 12,000 Russian troops and a slew of fighter jets, missiles, helicopters and tanks displaying their abilities within Russian territory near European Union borders.
In response, NATO sent 4,000 troops to stand in Poland and the Baltic states near the Russian border, reported the Guardian. The United States also sent 600 paratroopers to the Baltic for the duration of Zapad.