U.S. soldiers take part in the urban fighting drill during the NATO Saber Strike exercise in the Soviet-time former military town near Skrunda, Latvia June 13, 2018. (REUTERS PHOTO)
MOSCOW, June 20 (Xinhua) -- The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of strengthening combat forces near Russia's border and warned that Moscow will take mirror-like actions against NATO's moves.
"Since the beginning of the year, NATO countries have conducted thirteen large-scale exercises in the South-West Strategic Area with over 40,000 troops and 2,000 units of military equipment," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting of the Defense Ministry's senior officials in the city of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula.
"This forces us to take symmetrical measures to neutralize the emerging threats and combine strategic deterrence with increasing combat readiness," he said.
This came at a time when the hysteria over the alleged Russian aggression has become increasingly intensified among the Baltic States and Poland.
According to Shoigu, the anti-Russian rhetoric has led to an increase of the number of NATO contingents in the Baltic, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria from 2,000 to 15,000 people since 2015, and even up to 40,000 to 60,000 troops during the period of NATO exercises.
In order to facilitate the transfer of troops, NATO is actively improving the transport infrastructure while simplifying procedures for crossing borders, and decided to create two new commands responsible for protecting maritime communications in the North Atlantic, he said.
NATO also plans to grow capable of keeping in combat readiness 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 warships which can be effectively engaged within 30 days by the year of 2020, he added.
In particular, the minister noted that new U.S. nuclear strategy designates Russia as the main enemy, and that the U.S. missile defense system deployed in 2016 in Romania and the planned deployment of similar facilities in Poland "undermine the regional stability."
On the other hand, Shoigu said that Moscow is not building up its troops in the contact line between NATO members and Russia, including in the Baltic region.
"All activities of our Armed Forces related to their development, are conducted on the national territory through improvements of their management system, organizational and staff structures within the existing strength," he said.