Russia threatens to respond to NATO's military buildup along eastern border

Jennifer Griffin reports from Washington, D.C.

Russian officials said on Wednesday that Moscow will create three new divisions to counter NATO’s planned troop buildup in Eastern Europe.
“The Defense Ministry is taking a series of measures to counter the expansion of NATO forces in direct proximity to the Russian border,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Shoigu said the new Russian divisions would be formed by the end of the year. Reuters, citing Russian media, reported that the Russian divisions would include about 10,000 soldiers each.
Western officials told The Wall Street Journal last week that NATO will send about 4,000 troops to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday NATO was weighing a decision to place more battalions in the eastern member nations amid rising tensions between the West and Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance’s planned buildup in the Baltics wouldn’t have happened if Russia didn’t insert itself into the Ukraine conflict in 2014. Stoltenberg said NATO’s deployment was a reaction to Russian aggression.
 Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko
The announcement of heightened military measures on both sides comes after a serious of incidents in the skies and the Baltic Sea involving U.S. jets, a U.S. destroyer and Russian warplanes.
Last week, a Russian Su-27 performed a barrel roll over a U.S. spy plane in the Baltic Sea. Russia said the U.S. plane was coming too close to a military base and had its transponder turned off.
Su-27s and a military helicopter also simulated attack passes near the USS Donald Cook, flying up to 75 feet within the Navy destroyer last month in the Baltic Sea.


Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the alliance would deploy "batallion-sized" multinational units on a rotational basis in the east.
Andrei Kelin, a department head at Russia's Foreign Ministry, said the proposed NATO deployment was a source of concern for Moscow. Russia once held sway in eastern Europe as the Soviet-era overlord.

"This would be a very dangerous build-up of armed forces pretty close to our borders," Kelin told the Interfax news agency. "I am afraid this would require certain retaliatory measures, which the Russian Defence Ministry is already talking about."
Russia announced in January it would create three new military divisions and bring five new strategic nuclear missile regiments into service.

On Wednesday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the new divisions would be formed by the end of this year to counter what Moscow saw as NATO's growing strength.
Russian media, citing unnamed military sources, said the new Russian divisions would most likely be motorized rifle ones and number around 10,000 soldiers each.

"The Ministry of Defence has adopted a series of measures to counter the growing capacity of NATO forces in close proximity to the Russian borders," Shoigu said in televised comments.
The new divisions are likely to be deployed in military districts close to Russia's borders with Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states and Finland as well as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

NATO TO KEEP COURSE
"What we do is defensive, it's proportionate ... And therefore we will continue to respond," Stoltenberg said.
"There can be no doubt that what NATO does is a reaction to the Russian behavior in Ukraine. We didn't have any troops in Baltic countries ... before the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia's destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine."
He was speaking at news conference with NATO's new Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Curtis Scaparrotti, who said he intended to continue NATO's response so far to what the West sees as a more assertive and muscle-flexing Russia.

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