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Russia, Belarus forced to respond to NATO’s build-up near their borders — top brass

Speaking about developing the regional grouping of the Russia-Belarus forces, the defense minister noted the successful Union Shield 2019 joint drills that took place in September

MOSCOW, October 25. /TASS/. Moscow and Minsk have to take measures to counter a threat to their security in the wake of NATO’s build-up near the borders of the Russia-Belarus Union State, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

"In order to counter the deployment of the North Atlantic bloc’s troops near our borders and NATO’s ‘4x30’ initiative, we are forced to take defensive counter-measures. For these purposes, we are building up our troops’ potential and rearming them in a planned manner," Shoigu told a joint board meeting of the defense ministries of Russia and Belarus.

Both sides are paying special attention to "developing the regional grouping of forces of Russia and Belarus, conducting joint operational and combat training and elaborating an effective regulatory legal framework," the defense minister noted.

The situation in the Western strategic direction "remains tense," Shoigu stressed.

"NATO continues to build up its combat potential and military activity in Europe. It is strengthening its military presence, deploying additional military contingents and offensive armaments," the Russian defense minister noted.

"In addition to the US anti-ballistic missile system deployed in Romania, a similar system is being set up in Poland. The alliance regularly holds military exercises while the infrastructure of the sea ports, aerodromes and other military facilities of its member states is being modernized. Reconnaissance activity has intensified considerably," the defense chief stated.

At the same time, "the West is justifying its military policy by the far-fetched need to contain Russia’s allegedly aggressive intentions," he stressed.

"Amid this background, a large-scale information campaign is underway to discredit the role of the [Russia-Belarus] Union State in ensuring regional security and to break the brotherly relations of the two countries," Shoigu claimed.

Joint Russia-Belarus drills

Speaking about developing the regional grouping of the Russia-Belarus forces, the minister noted the successful Union Shield 2019 joint drills that took place in September and were "solely of defensive nature." The joint maneuvers involved about 12,000 troops and 950 weapon systems.

"In October, a series of measures were held with the participation of CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] allies. They included the Interaction 2019 exercise with the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces, the Echelon 2019 drills with the logistics troops and also the Poisk 2019 [Search 2019] maneuvers with reconnaissance forces," the defense minister said.

Today Russia and Belarus should attach priority to "cooperation in developing the armed forces, conducting coordinated defense policy and mutually using military infrastructure," Shoigu stressed.

"Today we will sum up the results of interaction and define major areas of our further work," the Russian defense minister said, opening the ministries’ joint board meeting.

Repercussions of US pullout from INF Treaty

An arms race in Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region may be a consequence of the United States’ pullout from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty, Sergei Shoigu told the ministerial meeting.

"The United States’ pullout from the INF Treaty jeopardizes the system of strategic stability in the world and may trigger a new arms race in Europe and the entire Asia-Pacific Region," Shoigu said.

He remarked that "in today’s inter-state relations the use of unilateral actions, including the use of force in violation of international law, is becoming commonplace."

"The scale of operations by terrorist groups is expanding," he pointed out. "In this no easy military and political situation effective cooperation by our defense ministries is crucial as never before," he stated.

In his opinion Belarus is "the closest neighbor and a reliable military ally" for Russia.

"Our countries stand together on all issues of international and regional security and cooperate successfully in building a collective defense. The high level of partnership enables us to effectively and promptly cope with the tasks of strengthening the military security of the Union State," Shoigu claimed.

The Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty was terminated on August 2, 2019 at the initiative of the United States. Washington blamed its decision on Russia’s refusal to fulfill the ultimatum to eliminate its new cruise missiles 9M729, which in the opinion of the United States and its NATO allies violate the provisions of the INF Treaty. Moscow dismissed the charges, saying that the missile’s parameters agreed with those allowed by the INF Treaty and put forward its own accusations of Washington’s non-compliance.