Putin says Russia must militarily strengthen as ‘aggressive’ NATO approaches
MOSCOW – Reuters
AP photoRussia must boost its combat readiness at a time when NATO is expanding and moving its infrastructure towards Russia’s borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 22.
“NATO is strengthening its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions near our borders,” Putin said in a speech in the lower house of parliament.
“In these conditions, we are duty-bound to pay special attention to solving the task of strengthening the combat readiness of our country,” he added.
Russia considers NATO troops’ presence close to its border as a security threat.
A recent Polish-led NATO exercise that involved about 31,000 troops and ran in Poland irked Russia with the Kremlin reacting angrily to the start of the maneuvers.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said June 7 in Moscow that the military exercise in Poland “does not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and security on the continent.”
Poland and other nations in the region, as well as NATO leaders, say that any military presence or exercises are purely defensive and deterrent measures.
NATO will hold a crucial summit in Warsaw on July 8-9, during which the allies are expected to decide on the deployment of significant numbers of NATO troops and equipment in Poland and in the Baltic states.
Russia has long protested at NATO’s expansion in its Soviet-era backyard and in 1997 NATO formally agreed not to install permanent bases in former Warsaw Pact states.
Since the Ukraine conflict erupted in 2014, however, NATO has established a high-speed “spearhead” response force, complete with forward command and logistic centers in eastern states.