What makes Russia’s massive war games with Belarus so worrying?

Russia started the active phase of military drills in Belarus on Feb. 10. (Video: Reuters)

Even in ordinary times, the massive military exercises with Russia and Belarus, its western neighbor, would be worrying Europe and its allies. No joint exercises between the two countries have ever been as big as the 10-day maneuvers that began Thursday.

Friction between Russia and NATO has not been this high since the Cold War. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has called it a “dangerous moment.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke Tuesday of an “urgent need” to de-escalate the crisis — but then on Wednesday claimed that Moscow had to stage the war games to face down an “unprecedented threat” against Russia.

Here’s what you need to know about the military exercises between Russia and Belarus: