31 May 2021
The repressive regime of Vladimir Putin is enraged by the increasing number of flights of US strategic bombers near Russia’s borders. The deployments of NATO warships and the increasingly frequent and large-scale military exercises by members of the alliance near its border have also annoyed the Kremlin.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu asserted that such actions “destroy the international security system and force us to take appropriate countermeasures”.
He announced at a meeting with senior officials this week that the Russian military “will train another 20 units and formations in the Western Military District until the end of the year.”
Western Russian units have ordered around 2,000 new pieces of weaponry this year, he added.
The explosion came amid mounting tensions between Russia and the West – mainly over its actions in Ukraine.
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All of this happened in the context of Ukraine’s rapprochement with the West.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy previously asked Biden to support Kiev’s candidacy for NATO membership.
His comments sparked an uproar in Russia, which considers Ukraine to be within its sphere of influence as a former USSR stable mate.
The fact that such a large and powerful neighbor joins an organization created to counter Russian influence poses a bold threat to Russia and the way it sees itself.
Mr Putin, who is battling a stammered economy and declining popularity, could have seen this as a way to distract from his internal woes.
It also supported his long-held narrative that the world is against Russia, which is why the country needs a strong, uncompromising leader.
So far, it seems to be working – but if the West’s influence continues to grow in the region, it threatens to unleash all-out war.
Ukraine has already expressed frustration that its application for NATO membership is not processed more quickly.
But the United States and other NATO members will be aware that accelerating such a move would only bring the region closer to war.
So far both sides have pulled out of the intake, but with tensions continuing to rise, it’s unclear how long that will remain the case.