The Russian military is conducting military exercises involving more than 45,000 troops, war planes and submarines. The exercises come after the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations conducted similar exercises near Russia’s borders.
Reuters reports that President Vladimir Putin made his first public appearance since March 5 on Monday morning as he met with Kyrgyz Republic President Almazbek Atambayev at the Constantine Palace outside Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg. Monday marks the first anniversary of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and annexation by the Russian Federation.
Putin ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet to full combat readiness during exercises in the Arctic North. The exercises are aimed at challenging recent drills by Norway. Five thousands troops in Russia’s eastern military district participated in drills, as did five hundred troops from Chechnya. Russian authorities stated that the drills were also meant to focus on fighting Islamic extremists.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told RIA news, “New challenges and threats to military security require the armed forces to further boost their military capabilities. Special attention must be paid to newly created strategic formations in the north.” Shoigu said Putin plans to spend more than $340 billion rebuilding Russia’s military.
The Russian military exercises follow a warning from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger told the United States and Russia to consider diplomatic resolutions to the conflict in Ukraine or a return to Cold War conditions is imminent. Speaking to the BBC’s World this Weekend, Kissinger also stated that limits on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations should be lifted if they are to develop an adequate defense against Russia.
“NATO has to develop military capacities that are relevant to dangers that they foresee. If they are determined to resist further Russian military moves it means that defense limitations should be lifted. It is inevitable that we are in a cold war strategy with Russia.”
He blamed less than cordial diplomacy between NATO and Russia for the current state of Ukraine. “I think it is essential that both Russia and NATO take a serious look at their diplomatic solutions because if they fail then I think a return to Cold war conditions is very likely.”
Just last week the United States sent tanks and armored vehicles to Latvia as part of NATO military exercises known as Operation Atlantic Resolve. RT reported that more than 120 armored tanks and vehicles were sent to Latvia. Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis called the exercise and equipment, “a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region.”
Operation Atlantic Resolve involved Canadian and American soldiers working with Latvian soldiers.
#AlliedStrong Abrams & Bradley Tanks arrive in Latvia–ready for Operation Atlantic Resolve: http://t.co/kFc3IHm1JJ pic.twitter.com/jqNTmTa9pX
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) March 9, 2015
Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said NATO is using the situation in Ukraine as cover for getting closer to Russia’s border.
“Instead of uniting forces to fight evil, the worst of which is terrorism, Western nations are drawing new divisive lines, trying to realize containment schemes against unwelcome states. Today, Russia has been chosen as the target,”
– Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov
In late 2014, I asked Is America Preparing for War with Russia?. I suggest a reading of that article to understand the build up between the two nations. The United States continues to push Russia with sanctions yet Russia seems undeterred.
One of the most troubling actions from either country came in the last days of 2014. On December 26 President Putin approved an updated war doctrine for Russia. The doctrine makes it clear that Russia will use military force to protect its citizens. The doctrine also stated that the US and NATO allied countries pose a military threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign free nation.
Putin said Washington is to blame for the changes, with it’s own war doctrine of pre-emptive attacks, deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, and buildup of NATO forces on Russia’s border. Russia also acknowledged attempts at regime change through “actions aimed at violent change of the Russian constitutional order, destabilization of the political and social environment, and disorganization of the functioning of governmental bodies, crucial civilian and military facilities and informational infrastructure of Russia.”