Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu says NATO's military activity in Eastern Europe has taken a ?most aggressive? direction
NATO is using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to build up its forces in Eastern Europe and deploy weapons which are being aimed at Russia and Belarus, Moscow's Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed on Thursday during a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin.
"Additional military contingents and military infrastructure are being deployed, combat training and reconnaissance activities are being activated near the borders of the Union State (of Russia and Belarus)," Shoigu said, adding that the US-led military bloc has already launched the next stage of its expansion, and is now modernizing military infrastructure in Eastern and Central Europe.
Shoigu also noted that Western governments are intentionally "doing everything possible in order to stretch out and escalate the conflict in Ukraine" by continuing to provide military aid to Kiev's armed forces.
"Today we are together resisting the collective West, which is waging an essentially undeclared war against our countries," he said, noting that NATO's military activity has acquired a "most aggressive direction."
The minister also pointed out that another worrying aspect for Moscow is the "increasingly aggressive rhetoric and joint 'nuclear missions' of NATO countries in Eastern Europe" which aim to test the use of nuclear weapon delivery vehicles and improve the US global missile defense system.
Shoigu stressed that these missions, along with deliveries of depleted uranium to Ukraine, are forcing Russia and Belarus to take appropriate response measures. Those include the deployment of Russia's non-strategic nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, the delivery of Iskander-M missile systems, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and the re-equipping of Belarusian planes to be able to use nuclear munitions. Shoigu stated, however, that control over Russia's nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus is still in Moscow's hands.
The minister noted that given the new military-political realities, Russia and Belarus have been strengthening their collective defensive capabilities, and that Minsk remains a "faithful ally and reliable partner" to Moscow.
During their meeting, Shoigu and Khrenin signed official documents defining the procedure for keeping Russia's non-strategic nuclear weapons in a special storage facility in Belarus. The move comes after President Vladimir Putin announced in late March that Russia would deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in the republic following a request from Minsk. Construction of the storage facility is expected to be complete on July 1.