Russia’s Armed Forces Strengthen Western Military District – The Jamestown Foundation

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Moscow is taking steps to modify its combat training and military exercises as well as further strengthen the Western Military District (MD) amid tensions with the Transatlantic alliance. Following a recent online meeting of defense ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg characterized Moscow’s increases in its missile power as “irresponsible.” He added that members agreed on a “balanced package of political and military measures” in response to the growth in Russian military capability. These will include strengthening integrated air-defense systems, stepping up intelligence activities and making changes to NATO military exercises. In continued policy mirroring, Moscow also intends to boost its force modernization while simultaneously offering to alter plans for its annual strategic-level military exercises in September to avoid activity close to NATO (Gazeta.ru, June 13; Izvestia, June 1; see EDM, June 17).

Stoltenberg highlighted Moscow’s missile capabilities, which had prompted the final collapse, in August 2019, of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: “Last year, the deployment of SSC-8 missiles by Russia led to the collapse of the treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. These are dual-use missiles; they can reach European cities and lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons. Russia is also modernizing intercontinental ballistic missiles. [And] Russia has a hypersonic glider” (Gazeta.ru, June 17). With tensions high between NATO and Moscow, Russian officials claim there is no effort to start an arms race with
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