NATO Troops Buildup on Russian Borders

NATO is concentrating Troops on the Russian borders and those of Belarus; 40,000 troops and 15,000 items of armament and military hardware, including strategic aircraft, said the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergey Shoigu on Tuesday.

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Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Wednesday, during a session dedicated to guaranteeing national security in Crimea, that considering the activity of the U.S. and NATO in the Black Sea, Russia "is forced to take measures to ensure the security of its territory [... ,yet] is interested in conducting negotiations on a political settlement of the situation."

"Stepped-up military activity by the NATO bloc, and the US in particular, in close proximity to Russia’s borders in the Black Sea region has been determined [...] The question is, what does the US have to do with the Black Sea? What national interests are they pursuing here, if many Americans have no idea where this sea is?" Patrushev said.

He added that "the US, England and a number of other states accuse Russia of moving its troops on its territory, essentially ignoring our sovereign right to ensure our own security."

In a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III yesterday evening, the latter confirmed that  “the national security team will always present the president with a range of options that are focused on employing all the elements of national power” and “called upon Russia to cease their provocations”, while asking to be “more transparent about this recent activity” and confirming the commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

This statement was confirmed by the statement of U.S. Air Force General Tod D. Wolters the day before: "We deter, and, if deterrence fails, we're prepared to respond to aggression with the full weight of the transatlantic alliance." Wolters noted that NATO has a robust exercise program. “This summer, NATO will conduct Defender-series exercises composed of some 30,000 U.S. service members, allies and partners.”

These manoeuvres had already begun during the middle of the last month, as part of the second phase Immediate Response, in which more than 5,000 troops from 8 countries spread out across 31 training areas in 12 different countries to conduct live-fire training, while a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation will also occur. This will be followed by Saber Guardian from mid-May through early June, involving 13,000 service members from 19 countries conducting live fire and air and missile defence operations, plus a large-scale medical evacuation. The end of the Defender-21 Exercise is marked by the Command Post exercise in June, in which approximately 2,000 personnel will exercise the headquarters’ ability to command multinational land forces in a joint and combined training environment while maintaining real-world operations across 104 countries on two continents.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talked about NATO concentrating "40,000 troops and 15,000 items of armament and military hardware, including strategic aircraft” near the Russian border. The defence minister pointed out that "US force groupings are being reinforced in Poland and the Baltic states and the intensity of air reconnaissance has grown twofold and naval reconnaissance by 50% compared to last year."

At a meeting of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), the Chief of the Belarusian General Staff Major General Viktor Gulevich commented on the continued activity of the NATO bloc near the borders of Russia and Belarus, on the deployment of reconnaissance and transportation centers, and the improvement of military infrastructure facilities, in particular, for receiving contingents and other processes.

Shoigu’s concern over U.S. forces in the vicinity of the Russian federation may be somewhat alleviated, as the U.S. has cancelled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara had notified Turkey’s foreign ministry of the move, said sources within the, but did not provide a reason. U.S. officials said that Turkey may have misunderstood the initial notification and the deployment was never confirmed. According to them, the United States frequently notifies Turkey of potential access to the Black Sea. But a request does not necessarily mean its ships will pass through, but rather ensures that if they choose to, they already have the required approval.

By Kevin Klemann

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