On November 1st, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized that Russia needs to beef up its defenses in the face of NATO’s moves.
Speaking during a meeting with military officials and arms makers in the southern Russian city of Sochi, Putin specificially noted the deployment of NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense components in Eastern Europe and increasingly frequent missions by NATO ships near Russian waters in the Baltic and Black Seas.
“Even now, a U.S. warship has entered the Black Sea, and we can see it in binoculars or crosshairs of our defense systems,” he said in an apparent reference to the deployment of the U.S. destroyer USS Porter, and the incoming USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the 6th fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet said in a statement that their mission will help “further enhance collaboration between U.S. and NATO forces at sea,” adding that “NATO allies and partners stand together to ensure a safe, stable and secure Black Sea region, building partner capacity to improve effectiveness and interoperability.”
Recently, Russia suspended its mission at NATO and ordered the closure of the alliance’s office in Moscow after NATO had withdrawn the accreditation of eight Russian officials to its Brussels headquarters, saying it believed they had been secretly working for Russian intelligence.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concerns over the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders, describing it as a threat to its security. Russia and the alliance also have continuously accused each other of dangerous and provocative maneuvers at sea and in the air.
Back in June, Russia said and provided footage of one of its warships firing warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of British destroyer Defender to drive it away from Black Sea waters near the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Britain denied that account, insisted its ship wasn’t fired upon and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
In the aftermath of the incident, Moscow warned that it is prepared to target intruding warships if they fail to heed warnings.
“We must further improve our air and space defense system as leading powers have been developing prospective high-speed strike weapons,” Putin said. “It’s also warranted by the military-political situation, including increasingly intensive flights by NATO aircraft near Russia and the appearance of the alliance’s warships armed with guided missiles in the Baltic and Black Seas.”
Separately, satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies to Politico allegedly showed a “massive military buildup” in Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
The imagery showed a buildup of armored units, tanks and self-propelled artillery along with ground troops massing near the Russian town of Yelnya close to the border of Belarus. The units, which began moving in late September from other areas of Russia where they are normally based, include the elite 1st Guards Tank Army.
Anew analysis by Jane’s allegedly revealed that equipment from Russia’s 4th Tank Division has been moved to areas around Bryansk and Kursk close to Ukraine’s northern border. The units are equipped with T-80U main battle tanks and self-propelled artillery.
Elements of the 1st Guards Tank Army have also been spotted in the area. The army “has been designed to conduct operations at every level of combat from counterinsurgency to mechanized warfare,” Jane’s analysis reported. “It is usually the first to receive the latest equipment and is also seen as the primary formation for the testing of new equipment and tactics.”
The deployment “marks a clear deviation from the 1st Guards Tank Army’s standard training pattern,” which normally takes place around Moscow, Jane’s said.
Immediately after the reports, Ukraine’s defense ministry denied a media report of a Russian military buildup near its border, saying it had not observed an increase in forces or weaponry.
“As of November 1, 2021, an additional transfer of Russian units, weapons and military equipment to the state border of Ukraine was not recorded,” the Ukrainian defense ministry said in a statement.
In Washington, the Pentagon said it was aware of public reports about “unusual activity.”
“We’re certainly monitoring the region closely as we always do so and as we’ve said before, any escalatory or aggressive actions will be of great concern to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.