Russia’s defense minister declared Tuesday that President Vladimir Putin has ordered his air force to prepare for “a time of war.”
The declaration comes as the political waters near the Russian border have been rapidly approaching the boiling point, with thousands of NATO troops amassing close to the border with Russia as part of the largest build-up of Western troops neighboring Moscow’s sphere of influence since the Cold War.
Tensions in the region have been high since Putin overran Crimea from Ukraine in a move condemned by the U.N.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Putin has ordered the armed forces to conduct a “snap check,” a real-time assessment of their rapid deployment capabilities. As well as checking whether agencies and troops are ready for battle, the same order will ensure that systems are ready to fight, according to state news agency TASS.
“Special attention should be paid to combat alert, deployment of air defense systems for a time of war and air groupings’ readiness to repel the aggression,” Shoigu said.
President Donald Trump has condemned Russia’s military campaigns while simultaneously absorbing criticism for his perceived amicable relationship with Putin.
Trump recently spoke by phone with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, pledging to work with Ukraine and Russia to resolve tensions between the two countries, according to the White House.
“We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” Trump told Poroshenko, according to the White House.
Russia itself is standing in an increasingly tense relationship with some NATO countries. The superpower has condemned recent NATO activity, calling it a “confrontational agenda.”
“In essence, by its preparations along our borders, NATO tries to impose on us a confrontational agenda that has nothing to do with real needs in the security sphere,” Aleksandr Grushko said in an interview with Interfax.
NATO, for its part, has called for other countries in the region to move to ease tensions, speaking with leaders of Kosovo and Serbia in the weeks after Serbia sent a train painted with the slogan “Kosovo is Serbia” to the border and Kosovo police stopped it entering.
Germany has deployed tanks to Lithuania to shore up the defense against the Russian threat, the latest in a series of NATO moves to define Europe as off-limits to Russia.
Norway has begun bolstering up its armed forces with new submarines in response to Russian maneuvers near its border. The NATO member is also expected to sign a joint contract with Germany in 2019.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the United States’ adversarial relationship with Russia. Politico reported Monday that his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, will recommend Trump support Montenegro’s entrance into NATO, a move that many believe would further infuriate Russia.
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