The fictional scenario for Zapad 2017 has gone viral as a joke on social media, and that has led The Wall Street Journal to write a piece on the made-up settings that militaries use for training:
The U.S., its NATO allies, Russia and other militaries around the world use fictional scenarios to make their military drills more sophisticated. They require soldiers to understand the political environment and motivations of the people they are trying to protect, and defeat.
It’s hard to fathom the amount of time staff officers around the world spend drafting these sophisticated scenarios so that other officers can spend time trying to figure out what the heck the exercise is about. The funny thing is that for the most part the scenario is absolutely irrelevant to the desired learning outcome of the training. I say just make a good exercise and don’t spend time overthinking the scenario.