According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the country faces intense threats on its border and must upgrade its army for protection. Ukraine disagrees, as its government reports this week that over 54,000 Russian soldiers are standing by on its borders.
“Currently, Russia continues to deploy a group of troops in close vicinity to border and in the occupied territory of Ukraine, consisting of 45 battalion tactical groups, 17 company tactical groups, with a total number of servicemen exceeding 54,000 people, with all weapons and equipment,” stated the Anti-Terrorist Organization press office.
Putin promised new military graduates plans “to spend 22 trillion rubles (over $400 billion) through 2020 to give the armed forces dozens of navy ships, hundreds of new planes and missiles and thousands of tanks and other weapons.” But his nuclear-armed intercontinental missile program has been delayed, which means the first missile will not be available for several months. There are no specific details regarding why it is taking so long.
“The plant is doing its work,” one defense industry source told The Moscow Times. “Everything now depends on whether or not contractors deliver the [remaining] components on time. The red line that cannot be crossed is the end of October.”
Tensions between the West and Russia continue to rise on an almost weekly basis. Russia’s neighbors pleaded for more protection after Moscow invaded eastern Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in case Putin targets them next.
America recently announced more defense for NATO allies in Eastern Europe. It is the first time America has increased its presence in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. will spread weapons and 5,000 troops in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Poland. All of these countries were once Soviet states or satellite states. Russian officials warned of retaliation if America places tanks and weapons near Russian borders.
“If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War,” declared General Yuri Yakubov, the Russian defense ministry official. “Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front.”
In mid-June, Putin sent waves through the West when he announced that Russia will own 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015. The move forced NATO to review its nuclear weapon policy.
“There is very real concern about the way in which Russia publicly bandies around nuclear stuff,” explained a NATO diplomat. “So there are quite a lot of deliberations in the alliance about nuclear [weapons], but it is being done very slowly and deliberately. We need to do due diligence on where we are.”
Putin also caused a panic when he told the world that Moscow can plant nukes anywhere in their territory, including Crimea. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), five countries, including Russia, may plant “nuclear weapons anywhere in its territory.” However, the United Nations and NATO still consider Crimea a part of Ukraine. In May, NATO lashed out against Russia’s buildup in Crimea. They also repeated to Moscow that none of them recognize their annexation of Crimea.