Russia will form 12 new military units in its west to face the growing threat from NATO, Sergey Shoigu said.
Over the past few years, the US and NATO have ramped up their activities along Russia's western borders and tensions continue to grow, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. The minister made remarks at a meeting of the National Defense Management Center in Moscow on Friday.
The US-led NATO bloc has steadily increased training exercises near Russia's borders, apart from intensifying strategic activities, Shoigu pointed out. He said that a series of exercises called the Defender of Europe are currently being conducted involving up to 40,000 military personnel from 30 countries of the bloc. He said that the redeployment of a full-fledged division force from the US to Europe has become the main feature of the drills.
The intensity of US strategic bomber flights in Europe has increased 15 times over the past eight years, according to Shoigu. Visits of American ships armed with guided missiles to the Baltic Sea have become a routine occurrence. They have visited six times this year suspected cruise missile launch zones off the coast of the Kaliningrad Region. Since 2016, 24 such events have been detected. By the end of this year, Russia will form 12 new military units in the Western Military District to face the growing threat from the US-led bloc, Shoigu said. The official didn't say anything about the size or exact nature of the new units.
The minister said that the immediate neighbors of Sweden, Finland and Russia have applied for NATO membership, further contributing to the growing tensions. The two Nordic nations have submitted their bids this week, but they have faced opposition from Turkey, a major NATO nation, which claims that Sweden and Finland harbor people it deems to be terrorists, namely members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party PKK. The expansion of NATO and the alliance's military build up in eastern Europe has been reinvigorated due to the Russian offensive launched in Ukraine in late February. Poland has expressed a willingness to build permanent military installations in order to house light infantry units of the alliance, despite Sweden and Finland wanting to join the bloc. The three Baltic nations, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, are pushing for the creation of a rapid-deployment, division-sized force of some 20,000 troops. The unit would be on standby and ready for deployment into any of the countries if they were to be threatened with a threat of any kind.