Russian military parade marking the 73rd anniversary of Victory in the 1941–45 Great Patriotic War. (Kremlin/Released)
Russia is planning to establish 12 new military bases and units in the western part of the country by the end of the year in response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) eastward expansion toward Russia.
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced “12 military units and subunits will be formed in the Western Military District by the end of the year,” the state-run TASS news agency reported. Shoigu said the new units are forming as “tensions continue to mount in the area of responsibility of the Western Military District” where Russian forces are engaged in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Shoigu also said Russia will also bolster its western military forces with more than 2,000 pieces of new military equipment.
The military expansion in Russia’s west comes after NATO dispatched thousands of troops to member nations located on the eastern edge of the alliance as Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
Shoigu said the move to bolster Russia’s Western Military District comes as Finland and Sweden await consideration for their applications to join NATO.
Finland’s eastern border runs for 830 miles along the northwestern edge of Russia. By allowing Finland into the alliance, NATO would more than double the length of the alliance border region that runs along Russia’s borders.
Russia has repeatedly warned against NATO allowing Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
In April, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that Russia would deploy more nuclear weapons near the Baltic region if Finland and Sweden join NATO.
U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed his support for Finland and Sweden to be accepted into NATO.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opposed Finland and Sweden entering NATO. Turkey maintains a complicated relationship with Russia as well as NATO. Turkey and Russia have regional partnerships, especially in the area around Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkey has also partnered with Ukraine and has sent the eastern European country key military aid, such as the Bayraktar TB2 combat drone. Turkey has also offered to mediate peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.
In addition to its complicated relations with Russia, Turkey has also criticized Sweden and Finland for their support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia force in eastern Syria and western Iraq that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
It remains to be seen if Russia will continue its military buildup along its western borders if NATO rejects Finland and Sweden’s membership bids.