Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko awards Russian servicemen during the Zapad 2017 war games at a range near the town of Borisov, Belarus September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

  • Robust electronic-warfare drills during Russia’s Zapad military exercise in September came as a surprise to Estonia’s military-intelligence chief.
  • Russia has geographic and logistical advantages when operating along its western frontier, he said, and NATO is watching Moscow’s activity in the region.
  • NATO is also working to reassure its allies in Eastern Europe and improve its command and control abilities.

Russia held large-scale military exercises with troops from Belarus earlier this year, deploying some 12,000 soldiers in a variety of drills in both countries.

The Zapad 2017 exercises fell short of many of the sinister elements observers thought they might include, but one aspect of the electronic-warfare component of the drills elicited surprise among NATO officials.

“The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me. It was at a level we haven’t seen,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence, Col. Kaupo Rosin, told Defense News. “And they did it in the different branches, so land force, Air Force. That definitely surprised us.”

Rosin said Russia has an advantage in that its forces can switch to civilian electronic infrastructure within its own territory should their military electronic networks get jammed or become compromised.

“They tested [their own troops] to learn how to switch into their own cable network and not to emanate anymore, but to deal with the problem,” he said.

Russian troops Zapad-2017

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have warned about increasingly assertive Russian action along their shared borders. Estonia in particular has noticed increased Russian espionage activity.

The country’s intelligence service noted in its most recent annual report that:

“The Russian special services are interested in both the collection of information and in influencing decisions important for Estonia. The Russian intelligence and security services conduct anti-Estonian influence Read More Here