Russia still hopes for the better but is deeply frustrated over the lack of US coherent policy on Syria, which makes any coordination of efforts extremely complicated. It is also concerned over Washington’s evident desire to find a pretext for leaving the INF Treaty.
On July 11, Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu elaborated on the problems that cloud the relationship between Moscow and Washington in an interview with Italian Il Giornale. According to him, “American political elite” is to blame for the deterioration of the bilateral ties and no progress on security-related issues.
The official noted that Russia will always counter the US neocolonialist strategy aimed at weakening legitimate governments in other countries, sowing chaos and provoking “hybrid wars”.
Moscow takes seriously the threat posed by NATO. The army general cited the recent decision to implement the “four thirties” initiative to have 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat ships ready for deployment within 30 days by 2020 as an example of the pact’s increasing offensive potential in Europe. The foreign presence in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria has already grown from 2,000 to 15,000 servicemen with the prospects for increasing to 60,000 in the future.
The minister emphasized the destabilizing effect of NATO moving its forces and infrastructure close to Russia’s territory. Indeed, the Western media willingly describe the steps Russia takes to strengthen its borders, especially in the Kaliningrad region and Crimea, while mentioning nothing else about the four NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) units stationed in the Baltic States and Poland as the measures the alliance has taken in “self-defense”. This view purposefully omits a lot of things rarely mentioned and generally kept below the radar screen. The size of a newspaper interview does not provide a chance to speak about the ‘snuggling up” to Russia’s borders in greater details but it’s worth adding some more facts to support the minister’s position.
NATO is creating logistics infrastructure for offensive operations against Russia. The construction work is underway to turn the Polish town of Powidz into a hub for the Baltics and Northern Europe. Last year, US Army Europe established a new tactical headquarters in Poznan, Poland. The Polish armed forces will acquire the first strike capability against Russia upon getting US 70 AGM-158B JASSM-ER (extended range) missiles. In November, Poland will host what it calls a “national” exercise. Dubbed Anakonda-2018, the largest event ever staged by the alliance since the end of the Cold War will involve 100,000 troops, 5,000 vehicles, 150 aircraft and helicopters, and 45 warships of NATO members and their enhanced partners. The scope of the training event is mind-boggling.
US Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) are the crucial part of the NATO effort to create an offensive potential to attack Russia. Five equipment-storage sites are being prepared in the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and two locations in Germany.
It may not be in the spotlight but the process of Scandinavian Peninsula’s militarization is in full swing. Norway has significantly increased US military presence on its territory. The purchase of US nuclear capable F-35 fighters with Norwegian crews trained to operate them in flagrant violation of the NPT treaty will enhance the capability to strike Russia. Oslo has become part of US-spearheaded NATO ballistic missile defense program. Russia considers it to be a hostile move. It has warned about the consequences. In October-November, Norway will host the live portion of Trident Juncture-2018 NATO large-scale exercise to involve some 35,000 troops from 30 NATO members and partners, along with 70 ships and about 130 aircraft from over 30 nations.
Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have recently formed a new anti-Russia military-political bloc. Romania and Bulgaria host substantial US contingents. Sea Breeze-2018 exercise taking place in the Black Sea demonstrates the trend to boost and make permanent the NATO forces’ deployment in the region near Russia’s shore.
Add to it the absence of dialogue on both arms control and military activities. The Vienna Document is evidently not enough and the INF Treaty is on the brink of termination. An alliance of 29 nations with a total GDP of $18.35 trillion (21% of world) and the population of 603.7 million is snuggling up to Russia’s borders! New infrastructure sites are being built and personnel numbers are constantly on the rise. The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act is forgotten along with the INCSEA and Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities agreements. The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe is defunct with nothing in sight to take its place. The NATO-Russia Council has failed to make any progress on the way of ironing differences out. The only thing Russia can do under the circumstances is create a robust deterrent to make the alliance think twice before attacking it. But the hue and cry raised by NATO about Russia, just one country scaring to death the 29 nations protected by the United States, the military giant, sounds more like a joke than serious talk. Moscow cannot turn a blind eye on what’s happening at its borders and that’s the message Minister Shoigu conveyed in the interview with Il Giornale.