Russia shoring up western defenses to counter NATO buildup

June 21, 2017 10:30 pm

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu salutes as he reviews units during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, , May 9, 2017. (AFP photo)

Russia has ordered restructuring of its military deployments along its western border in response to ’s buildup in the region.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russia was refining defenses on its western flank to respond to NATO’s increased deployment of troops and weaponry in neighboring countries.
Shoigu said NATO’s buildup was a clear sign of the Western military alliance’s aggressive, anti-Russia stance.
Tensions have been high between Russia and NATO since a conflict erupted in Ukraine three years ago. Supporting claims of the Ukrainian government, the United States and allies in NATO accused Russia of having a hand in the conflict that has plagued eastern Ukraine. NATO has been beefing up deployments along Russia’s borders based on agreements it had reached earlier with the members but many say it is a result of the confrontation between Russia and the West in Ukraine. Moscow is also irked by NATO’s ever-increasing inclination to expand eastward and says it could undermine the military balance in the region.
Shoigu’s comments came hours after a NATO F-16 fighter jet tried to approach the minister’s plane over the Baltic Sea, but it was chased away by another Russian fighter jet that was scrambled to the scene.
The TASS agency reported that a Russian Su-27 made the NATO fighter jet change direction and fly away from Shoigu’s plane. It was not clear why the NATO plane was approaching the plane carrying Shoigu.

A Russian multipurpose MiG-35 fighter jet flies during its presentation at the MiG plant in Lukhovitsy, January 27, 2017. (AFP photo)

Russian and US aircraft engaged in a dangerous encounter in the same area on Monday. The Russian Defense Ministry said its fighter jets intercepted two US spy planes in separate incidents on a single day.
The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that a Baltic Fleet Su-27 jet was scrambled on Monday to intercept a US RC-135 spy plane that was flying toward the Russian border.
“While being escorted, the RC-135 attempted to move closer towards the Russian interceptor, making a provocative turn towards the Su-27,” read the statement.
The escalated confrontation above the Baltic region comes days after the United States downed a Syrian fighter jet flying over the province of Raqqah. Russia, which is assisting Syria militarily in the fight against terrorism, swiftly condemned the US action and said it would not go unanswered.
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