Russia: If NATO makes a mistake, we’re ready for unfavorable development

The article was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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WARSAW, (BM) – In an interview with the Russian media, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that he ordered – “To continue monitoring the situation in the areas covered by NATO Defender Europe exercises. Be prepared to react immediately in the event of their unfavorable development”. He also stressed that the movements of the alliance forces, especially in the area of ​​the western and southern borders of the Russian Federation, were closely monitored.

The statements were part of a more comprehensive interview for the RIA Novosti agency. Minister Shoygu outlined a vision of threats to the country’s security resulting from the Defender Europe 2021 maneuvers. Coordination centers have been established in Romania and Bulgaria to ensure the transport of NATO troops and supplies, “the minister stressed that the Russian armed forces were ready to react quickly to the” unfavorable development “of Defender Europe 2021.

According to Sergei Shoigu – “At present, weapons, military, and special equipment are arriving at Greek ports” – while – “one of the main forces of the alliance deployed in the Black Sea region”. This step, in his opinion, justifies the “defense” activities implemented in this area. One of them is the strengthening of the military presence in Crimea and the recently completed operational readiness test for the forces of the Southern Military District.

What the minister did not mention is the fact that after this “test”, which worried not only Ukraine but also the USA and many other countries, vast reserves of fuel, ammunition, and other materials were left near the borders of Ukraine and in Crimea, as well as field military bases and warehouses, which located from several dozen to 200 km from the walls of Ukraine. It is also impossible to determine how many of the tanks, self-propelled guns, soldiers, and combat assets deployed at the turn of March and April will reinforce forces on the border or support the fighters in eastern Ukraine “separatists”.

The Russian media quoting the minister also reminds that around 30,000 people will take part in NATO exercises. Soldiers who will train in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine were also invited to participate in the exercises. However, the information that the movement is stretched over time and divided into many more minor activities, in which 30,000 people will take part, is omitted—alliance soldiers.

Meanwhile, the completed, at least officially, displacement of Russian troops only to the border with Ukraine and Crimea totaled over 120,000. Soldiers concentrated simultaneously in this area. Not to mention that Russia’s operations were (and are) conducted as part of an unannounced combat readiness test. These tests allow to bypass the use of information instruments about the scope of training and raise uncertainty/anxiety about the objectives of the operations. At the same time, NATO maneuvers have long been announced.

In this way, by using the media, Minister Shoigu is part of a broader plan to scare NATO’s Russian citizens and the threat that supposedly results from the Alliance’s exercises. It is a particular threat to Russia’s interests in the Black Sea, which Moscow is trying to dominate successively. Numerous statements by such famous people as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, or Vladimir Putin himself suggest that Russia is under threat and will respond to this threat “as it deems appropriate”. These are neither conciliatory nor reassuring statements, especially for the residents of Ukraine or Georgia, who knows how the Kremlin responds to “threats”. Real or imaginary.

However, there is no doubt that Russia is trying to strengthen its position by concentrating the vast majority of its land and naval forces in the south and the Black Sea area. The response to other exercises, the central part of which is to be held in Poland and the Baltic States, is nevertheless of a smaller scale. Meanwhile, the army and the presence of the most important figures of Russian politics are concentrated in Crimea.

All this indicates the current priorities and the area of ​​most significant risk. Therefore, one should not believe in the assurances about the end of military concentration in this area. The move related to their withdrawal may also conceal preparations for other activities as earlier columns rushing towards Crimea and Rostov-on-Don. That is why both Ukraine and NATO are closely monitoring the situation, while Minister Shoigu talks about watching the activities of the North Atlantic Alliance.

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