«Russian officials regularly toss claims that NATO’s and America’s policy threaten Russia, and that Russia is being pulled into an arms race. That is not true. Let’s look at facts in regard to the size of deployments of armed forces, threats involving nuclear weapon deployment and aggressive military exercise scenarios. The alliance’s decision to strengthen NATO member states after the summit in Wales is merely part of a deterrence policy in response to the increased presence of Russian forces in the region,» – said Defence Minister and newly elected President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis.
In November 2012, following the appointment of Sergei Shoigu as Russia’s Defence Minister, the country began increasing its armed forces, including formation of new units, improvement of combat abilities of existing units and development of military leadership structures, reports Defence Ministry.
There has been a 50% increase in the number of military personnel in Russia over the past two years.
The 26th Tactical Missile Brigade stationed not far from Baltic and Nordic borders has been outfitted with Iskander-M/K missile complexes. The 105th Aviation Division has also been provided by Su-34 bombers in 2013.
In the near future, Russia plans to strengthen and re-outfit its airborne troops, as well as provide units with tank and artillery support units.
Tactical missile brigades stationed in Kursk and Kaliningrad Oblast are planned to be provided with Iskander missile complexes. Russia also plans to expand the number of its military aircraft stationed in Belarus to the size of an aviation base.
Over the past several years Russia has explored multiple different attack scenarios during its military exercises.
According to the scenario of Zapad 2009 Russian military exercise, attack operations were carried out against neighbouring NATO member states. The official number of participating soldiers was 14,000. The actual number was 30,000 soldiers. The exercise focused on land operations. The military exercises were held in Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, Moscow, former Leningrad and North Kavkaz. The military exercise also included a preventive nuclear strike.
The Zapad 2013 military exercise, whose goal was to play out an attack scenario against neighbouring NATO member states, also trained Russian forces to quickly dispatch armed forces of Baltic States. The official number of participating soldiers was 21,900. The actual number was close to 70,000. Russian armed forces carried out air, sea and air deployment operations as part of Zapad 2013 military exercises. This military exercise took place in Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, the Western war region and the Arctic. A preventive nuclear strike was also planned as part of the scenario.
«These activities by Russian armed forces demonstrate that Latvia and other NATO member states only react to Russia’s demonstrations of military power,» – said Vejonis. «Russia’s propaganda about the concentration of NATO forces close to its border is intentional mixing of cause and effect in order to avoid having to explain its own actions and hope to rally support from the Russian population in favour of the government’s aggressive policy,» – says Vejonis.
The Steadfast Jazz 2013 NATO military exercise, which took place in Latvia and Poland, was the largest military event in this region – nearly 6,000 soldiers had participated in it. Air, land, marine and special forces were engaged at specific points during the exercise. The goal of that exercise was to train and test NATO Reaction Forces.
During the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels in June, it was decided to increase readiness and response reaction against potential threats. NATO defence ministers decided to triple the personnel of Reaction Forces from 13 to 40 thousand troops. On 23 June, in Tallinn, U.S. Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter said that USA would station mechanized brigades in six countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Latvia, in order to stabilize the security situation following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
«NATO has to continue demonstrating its presence in the Baltic region and continue realizing decisions made during the summit in Wales. Otherwise NATO’s inability to hold its promise could be potentially interpreted by Russia as a sign of weakness or unwillingness to defend its territory,» – said Vejonis. «It is the unwillingness to invest in defensive capabilities can serve as a reason for Russia to realize its aggressive policy. Latvia and its allies have drawn such conclusions from what happened in Ukraine,» – added the Defence Minister.