Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

russian defense minister

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) attends a meeting between Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, and top officials along with the nation's military industry on November 3, 2021. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

Defense Minister Says Russia to Boost Military Over 'Increased NATO Activity' Near Border

The move amplifies pressure on the Biden administration to "step back from the brink of a U.S.-Russia war, and then from the larger Cold War with China and Russia that they have so blindly and foolishly stumbled into."

Jessica Corbett

After weeks of rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, along with its Western allies, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday that his country is boosting combat readiness due to NATO activity near its borders.

"The tense military and political situation in the world and NATO's increased activity near the Russian borders prompt the need to further develop the armed forces qualitatively," Shoigu said, referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization made up of 30 member nations including the United States.

Top priorities for the Russian forces, he added, include "raising their combat capability, maintaining the nuclear forces' combat readiness, and strengthening the non-nuclear deterrence forces."

Reuters reported that both Russia and Ukraine are stepping up military drills, noting that while "Russian fighter planes and ships practiced repelling air attacks on naval bases and responding with air attacks" in the Black Sea Wednesday, Ukrainian forces "held what it called a 'special operation' at the border with Belarus, including drone exercises and military drills for anti-tank and airborne units."

Detailing Ukraine's operation, the news agency added:

It has deployed 8,500 extra troops to its border with Belarus, saying it fears being drawn into the migrant crisis, which has seen the European Union accuse Minsk of flying in people from the Middle East and pushing them to enter neighbouring Poland. Belarus denies fomenting the crisis.

Kyiv also worries that the border with Belarus, a close Russian ally, could be used by Russia to stage a military assault.

Ukrainian officials have recently raised alarm about a buildup of Russian troops near their shared border as British and U.S. intelligence sources have warned of a possible invasion. Moscow has dismissed the suggestion that Russia intends to invade Ukraine and expressed concerns about Western efforts to supply its neighbor with high-tech weapons.

"Kyiv is itself building up its forces, Kyiv is being helped to build up its forces, Kyiv is being supplied with a significant amount of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday.

"The number of provocations is growing and growing significantly. What's more, these provocations are being carried out with weapons being supplied by NATO countries," Peskov said. "And we are observing this with great alarm."

The Russian defense minister's comments about NATO and the boost to combat readiness came a day after he signed a roadmap for closer military cooperation with China through 2025.

Highlighting that the two countries "have been strategic partners for many years," he said that "in conditions of increasing geopolitical turbulence and growing conflict potential in various parts of the world, the development of our interaction is especially relevant."

Shoigu also pointed to American planes flying about 12 miles from his country's borders, saying that "this month, during the U.S. Global Thunder strategic force exercise, 10 strategic bombers practiced the scenario of using nuclear weapons against Russia practically simultaneously from the western and eastern directions."

A Pentagon spokesperson, Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, pushed back, saying that "these missions were announced publicly at the time, and closely planned with [Strategic Command], [European Command], allies, and partners to ensure maximum training and integration opportunities as well as compliance with all national and international requirements and protocols."

Reuters noted that "the top Russian and U.S. military officers, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, spoke by telephone on Tuesday but neither side disclosed the contents of the conversation."

U.S. President Joe Biden—who recently held a virtual summit with his Chinese counterpart—is under mounting pressure to improve Washington's relations with both China and Russia.

Biden and his colleagues "must step back from the brink of a U.S.-Russia war, and then from the larger Cold War with China and Russia that they have so blindly and foolishly stumbled into," CodePink's Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies wrote earlier this week, warning that an armed conflict with either nation "would risk escalating into World War III."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·

As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·

Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo