According to a top Russian military official, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is massing troops near its border and increasing flights of reconnaissance aircraft. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters over the weekend that NATO plans to redeploy another U.S. military contingent to Poland in the near future, and that NATO Allied Command Operations in Eastern Europe has now surpassed 10,000 troops.
“In the near future additional American units are planned to be redeployed to Poland,” Shoigu told Tass. “Under the pretext of the need to ‘strategically constrain’ Russia, the United States and other non-regional members of the alliance are bolstering their military presence in Eastern Europe.”
Poland, which only celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary of gaining its independence last year, has been a full NATO member since April 1999, and its current Armed Forces consist of roughly 100,000 soldiers. In 1939 the eastern European nation was invaded by Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. During the Cold War it was a member of the Communist Bloc.
Now located on NATO’s eastern flank, close to Russia, Poland plays a role similar to that of West Germany during the Cold War. However, Shoigu has seen the NATO build-up as an issue to Russia’s security, and told Russian state media that the deployment of NATO forces has taken place despite the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, in which NATO agreed not to deploy “considerable military forces” near the contact line.
“The Allied Command Operations’ exercises near the Russian borders almost doubled in comparison with 2014,” Shoigu added. “Their scenarios involve practicing the creation of large groups on the NATO eastern flank.”
Increased Reconnaissance Flights
The other concern that Shoigu noted was the increase in what he described as “spy flights” near the Russian border, and the defense ministry said these have “surged” by one-third since last year.
“The North Atlantic Alliance’s nations have recently intensified their intelligence activities,” Shoigu told state media at the conclusion of last month’s Army Games-2020. “The intensity of use of NATO surveillance aircraft close to Russian borders has increased by more than 30% in comparison to last year. There were 87 flights last August and now there are about 120.”
Shoigu also noted how at the end of August and into September, the Russian Aerospace Forces scrambled jet fighters at least ten times to intercept spy planes over the Baltic, Barents and Black Seas. This included the scrambling of the Russian Northern Fleet’s MiG-31 fighters to intercept an Orion maritime patrol plane from the Royal Norwegian Air Force for a third day in a row.
These are just the most recent claims made by Russia, and follows claims made in June that foreign spy planes flew near the Russian border thirty times in a single week.
For its part, Russia has also increased its own reconnaissance and patrol flights, and this has included multiple flights of the Cold War-era Tupolev Tu-22M3 missile-carrying bombers over the Barents Sea and also off the coast of Alaska. Perhaps Shoigu needs to be reminded of those missions.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.