The Russian Defense Ministry plans to hold more than 4,000 drills and roughly 8,500 practical combat training events throughout 2019, amid persistent tensions between NATO and Moscow.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the announcement while addressing a gathering of regional commanders on Tuesday.
“Next year is going to be extremely busy. Over 4,000 various types of drills and nearly 8,500 practical combat training events are scheduled. The main focus will be placed on applying expertise in the use of troops in today’s armed conflicts and training commanders to effectively address non-standard tasks,” the Russian defense minister was quoted by Tass news agency as saying.
“The final combat training event next year will be the command staff exercise Tsentr-2019. It is due in September.”
Russia in September held its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union. The exercise, which also involved the Chinese and Mongolian armies, involved almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all of its airborne units.
Tensions have been running high between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says to be an unjustified build-up of NATO on its western flank. NATO says it has beefed up its presence in eastern Europe to deter a potential Russian military action.
Russia and NATO have had strained ties since a conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine some four years ago.
In June 2017, the US military took part in a training exercise with Baltic allies. The drills included B-1 and B-52 bombers and 50 naval ships. The same month, 25,000 servicemen from 17 countries participated in a NATO training exercise in the Black Sea, which were monitored by members of the Russian military.
Russia has long been wary of NATO’s expansion eastward. In November last year, Shoigu warned that NATO had been engaged in war games involving nuclear weapons training at Russia’s western borders.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Shoigu said Russia was mulling measures to boost the army amid Washington’s plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF).
“The measures were considered to reinforce the (armed) forces’ combat capacity and means amid the mounting arms race related to the US plans to quit the INF Treaty.”
“The supreme commander-in-chief was informed about the process of building and developing the armed forces, their capacity to ensure the state’s military security and counter a technologically advanced enemy,” Shoigu stated.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia said last month that Moscow would not leave unanswered Washington’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the INF Treaty.
On October 20, US President Donald Trump said Washington would withdraw from the INF, which was signed towards the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Cold War-era treaty, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles, has come into question against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the West and Russia. European leaders worry any collapse of the INF treaty could lead to a new, destabilizing arms race.
Kremlin says US-Russia dialogue not working out
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday he regretted that dialogue between Russia and the United States was not working out.
“Dialogue is not working out despite certain plans and certain homework done by both sides.”
President Putin and Trump were due to have an extended meeting at a G20 Summit in Argentina at the weekend, but Trump called it off in the wake of the capture of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews by Russian forces.