Russia held a big military exercise this week. Here’s why the U.S. is paying attention.

with this underlying message that if you thought we were in decay, we’re not,”

.. Because Russia used exercises as cover ahead of both its operations in Ukraine and its 2008 invasion of Georgia, its neighbors were cautious this time as the Kremlin fired up its military machine.

.. some of the basics of effective large-scale warfare — an ability to pick up and move large numbers of troops, and then command them effectively — were on clear display.

.. Military analysts also said the exercise was a chance for the Kremlin to shoot a message straight to the Pentagon and its allies that Russia has a formidable fighting force capable of mobilizing across its enormous territory — and it needs to be reckoned with.

..  scenario of the exercises — an enemy from the West tries to overthrow the government in Moscow’s ally, Belarus, and is beaten back

.. Moscow says it is convinced it is under threat of assault by a hostile force in the West that is determined to bring its military to Russia’s borders. This, as President Vladimir Putin sees it, has already been done in the Baltics. He believes the United States and NATO were the instigators of street protests that forced Ukraine’s president to flee to Russia in 2014.

.. Adding a nuclear edge to the war gaming, Russia carried out two tests of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24

.. He said his initial estimate was that between 65,000 and 72,000 troops took part.

.. The weapons were not only a fearsome show of Russian firepower, they were also a sparkling advertisement for the nation’s arms exporters.

.. “In 24 to 48 hours, some parts of the Russian armed forces could be ready to invade one Baltic state or all of them,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said in an interview. “It’s clear that it’s not only defense but it’s also about offense.”

.. Part of the exercise rehearsed cutting off the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the rest of NATO, Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis told Latvia’s LETA news agency. That is a nightmare scenario for the alliance because Russia has stationed powerful antiaircraft missile systems in its exclave of Kaliningrad, creating challenges for any Western attempt to retake the region.

.. they are rather far from being combat-capable

.. The “Russian Air Force is feeling the pressure of the protracted deployment in Syria,” Baev said. “Typically, maintenance is the weakest link, and accidents multiply,” he said.