Russia’s Defense Ministry has for the first time issued details regarding its threatened “military and technical” response two days after Finland and Sweden submitted their applications for NATO membership.
Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu described in public statements that Russia’s military is beefing up its troop presence along its western borders, though without specifying which exact locations. Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia. Shoigu outlined that 12 new units will be established under the Western Military District for new border patrols, to include heavy equipment.
“We are taking adequate countermeasures. Under these conditions, we are actively improving the combat composition of the troops. By the end of the year, 12 military units and subunits will be formed in the Western Military District,” Shoigu told Russian media outlets.
This may include long-range missiles or other heavy equipment, as he stipulated further “the ongoing organizational measures are synchronized with the supply of modern weapons.”
He further suggested that both military drills and naval maneuvers in the Baltics will increase in response to attempts to expand NATO. “According to the defense minister, the intensity of combat training tasks performed by the ships of the Baltic Fleet increased by 42%,” TASS wrote of his comments. “More than 300 combat exercises with application of various kinds of weaponry were fulfilled. Since the beginning of the year, the aviation of the district has increased by 4%.”
Early this week foreign minister Sergey Lavrov sought to downplay Finland and Sweden’s pending moves into the Western military alliance. But he and other top officials, including President Putin have stressed that a “response” would definitely come. “Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in NATO military exercises for many years,” Lavrov said days ago.
“NATO takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the East. So in this sense there is probably not much difference. Let’s see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance.” This was a greatly softened tone compared to other Kremlin officials previously warning of nuclear build-up in the Baltics, as Newsweek recounts:
Russia has stated that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, it would move nuclear weapons closer to the two countries. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic [region],” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that Putin had already ordered the military to boost its forces opposite Europe.
However, for all the talk of potential Russian military expansion and heightened nuclear readiness, some fresh reports out of Russia suggest the military is stretched thin due to higher than expected losses in Ukraine.
Reuters reports Friday that “In a sign of Russia’s urgent need to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, parliament said on Friday it would consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military.” The report continues: “The website of the State Duma, parliament’s lower house, said the move would enable the military to utilize the skills of older professionals.”
“For the use of high-precision weapons, the operation of weapons and military equipment, highly professional specialists are needed. Experience shows that they become such by the age of 40–45,” it said. Ukraine’s defense ministry has in its latest statement claimed that over 28,000 Russian troops have been killed throughout three months of war – a figure not acknowledged by the Russian side.