Russia’s defense chief says 12 military units and divisions will be launched in the western region in response to offers from Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.
Russia will create new military bases in the western part of the country, in what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described as “appropriate countermeasures” to Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
In a speech on Friday, Shoigu said the bidding by the two Nordic countries was one of several military threats that have increased in recent years along Russia’s northwestern border.
Those threats also include the United States stepping up strategic bomber flights, sending warships to the Baltic Sea and stepping up training exercises in the region with its NATO partners, he said.
“Tension continues to grow in the area of responsibility of the Western Military District. We are taking proper countermeasures,” Shoigu said, as Moscow forces continue their invasion of Ukraine.
“By the end of the year, 12 military units and divisions will be established in the Western Military District,” he added.
This will be accompanied by an increase in military equipment and weapons.
“This year, we intend to get more than 2,000 such kits,” Shoigu said.
Security concerns driven by the invasion of russiawhich began on February 24, prompted Finland and Sweden to break with longstanding neutrality policies and join NATO.
Finland shares a 1,340 km long (830 mi) land border with Russia, while Sweden shares a maritime border.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Thursday that he had received their requests to join the bloc, in what could represent one of the most significant changes to Europe’s security architecture in decades.
All 30 NATO member countries must agree to accept new members; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed opposition to the union of Finland and Sweden.
On Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto met with US President Joe Biden at the White House, where Biden fiance “full support” to the two countries.
Hours later, top US General Mark Milley spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, in their first conversation since the war began, according to the Pentagon.
A spokesman for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said the general “discussed various security-related issues of concern,” without offering further details.