Multiple Russian state media outlets are reporting that President Vladimir Putin has stressed that Russia has a right to respond to US military build-up in Europe while furthering its strategic nuclear deterrence capabilities in a speech delivered before a Defense Ministry meeting on Friday in the city of Balashikha outside of Moscow.
At the same meeting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that NATO has doubled the number of its military drills since 2012 in the vicinity of Russia’s borders, noting that Russia is carefully monitoring what it considers hostile NATO build-up and intensified surveillance operations along Russian borders. The defense minister further indicated that the number of NATO-member country troops stationed near Russian borders has tripled, growing from 10 to 40 thousand in three years, saying “In the Baltic states and Poland, four battalion-tactical groups, an armored brigade of the US Army, headquarters of NATO multinational divisions in Poland and Romania are deployed.”
Since the crisis in Ukraine (which began in 2014) and Russia’s subsequent annexation of the Crimea, an Obama administration policy of steady build-up and periodic war games has been in place in East European and the Baltic countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. A little under a year ago a Reuters report acknowledged that NATO has been “expanding its presence in the region to levels unprecedented since the Cold War” – something which the Pentagon has long touted as defensive in nature.
And just this week news broke that after months of indecision over whether or not to move forward with Obama-era legislation which initially paved the way for legalizing US arms sales to Ukraine, Trump has approved the first ever US commercial sale of weapons to the Kiev government, which Moscow sees as an illegitimate puppet regime supported by the West.
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