MOSCOW, Russia — The defence minister announced Monday that Russia’s military will build 20 New Military Units in the country’s west this year to confront what it thinks is a rising threat from NATO.
Sergei Shoigu announced the news during a meeting with senior military leaders. He cited an increase in the number of strategic bomber flights near Russia’s borders, as well as NATO vessel deployments and more regular and large-scale drills by alliance troops.
Such activities, he claimed, “damage the international security system” and “require us to adopt appropriate countermeasures.”
“Until the end of the year, we will establish another 20 units and formations in the Western Military District,” Shoigu added.
He went on to say that military divisions in Western Russia had ordered roughly 2,000 new weapons this year.
When asked about Russia’s plans on Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “Russia has invested heavily in new, modern military capabilities, from conventional to nuclear weapon systems, over the last years.” “In Georgia and Ukraine, he has been willing to use military force against neighbours.”
“This is one of the primary reasons why NATO has improved the preparedness of (its) military forces in recent years,” he told reporters ahead of the alliance’s foreign and defence ministers meeting on Tuesday.
Thousands of NATO troops, several vessels, and dozens of planes are now participating in military drills that span the Atlantic, Europe, and the Black Sea.
The Steadfast Defender 21 drills are simulating NATO’s response to an assault on any of its 30 members. NATO claims the war simulations aren’t directed at Russia. It will put NATO’s capacity to deploy soldiers from the United States while maintaining supply links to the front lines to the test.
Last month, a troop buildup along the Ukrainian border in Russia’s south and southwest alarmed Ukraine and the West, which urged Moscow to remove its soldiers.
Following the fall of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president in 2014, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula and subsequently backed separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. In the seven years of warfare in eastern Ukraine, almost 14,000 people have died.
After sweeping operations in April, Russia withdrew some troops from its western regions, but Shoigu ordered them to leave their weapons behind for Russia’s Zapad (West) 2021 military exercises in September.
He said Monday that preparations for the drills, which will be held in cooperation with Belarus, are nearing completion and that the manoeuvres will be “exclusively defensive in nature.”
Last week, Russia gave diplomatic backing to Belarus, which diverted a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania in order to apprehend a dissident journalist. The European Union called the flight’s detour piracy and barred the Belarusian flag carrier from its territory, ordering European planes to avoid Belarus’ territory.