Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday other countries should not think they can attain military superiority over Russia, Interfax reported.
“No one should have the illusion that they can gain military superiority over Russia, put any kind of pressure on it. We will always have an adequate answer for any such adventures,” he was quoted as saying in an address dedicated to the Defenders’ of the Fatherland Day holiday next week.
The bellicose statement comes as Russian-backed rebels are gaining territory in eastern Ukraine.
On Friday, Kiev accused Russia of sending more tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine and said they were heading towards the rebel-held town of Novoazovsk on the southern coast, expanding their presence on what could be the next key battlefront.
Novoazovsk lies on the Sea of Azov, 40 km (25 miles) east of the port city of Mariupol. It was captured by rebels last year and could be a launching-pad for more pressure on Mariupol, a gateway to the south and possibly to the Crimea peninsula annexed by Russia a year ago.
“In recent days, despite the Minsk (ceasefire) agreement, military equipment and ammunition have been sighted crossing from Russia into Ukraine,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.
He said more than 20 Russian tanks, 10 missile systems and busloads of troops had crossed the border into Ukraine.
Moscow has made several recent moves to bolster the overall standing of the Russian military. On December 26, 2014, Putin signed off on a new military doctrine that listed NATO as Russia’s main existential rival while extolling the value of further militarization of three main spheres of forward Russian power.
The three geopolitical front lines that Russia seeks to reinforce are the Arctic region, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad which neighbours Poland on the Baltic Sea, and the recently annexed Crimean peninsula. Moscow views each of these regions as critical for checking the expansion of NATO power while also serving as forward bases for Russian military and economic expansion.
The site of the most concerted Russian militarization effort so far has been the Polar Arctic region, which the US estimates contains upwards of 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas.
In the Arctic Russia has undertaken a construction blitz which includes the construction of 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and ten air-defence radar stations along the coast. Moscow has also created the Joint Strategic Command North, which the Polish Institute of International Affairs notes will include a naval infantry brigade, an air defence division, an Arctic mechanised brigade, and missile defence systems.
In Kaliningrad, the AP reports, Russia briefly deployed high precision mobile Iskander ballistic missiles. Simultaneously, Russia now has a major naval base, air defence missiles, and long-range bombers based in the Crimean peninsula.
As part of its massive goal of military modernization, Russia plans to construct and introduce into service 12 new ballistic missile submarines in addition to an additional eight nuclear attack submarines by the 2020s, Russian Military Reform reports.
Russia’s government-owned Krylov State Research Center also claims to be making strides toward the construction of a massive new aircraft carrier that could carry 100 planes. The carrier would complement Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov, the country’s only carrier, which faces frequent operational problems.
However, all of this bluster belies Russia’s own dire situation. Moscow’s economy has continued to take a beating from a mixture of economic sanctions and falling oil prices, thereby constricting the country’s ability expand its military without putting significant strains on other portions of its economy.
In October, before Russia’s ruble crash, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov expressed his concern as to the government’s ability to pay finance the country’s grandiose defence plans.
“When we were adopting the defence program, the forecasts for the economy and budget revenues were completely different. Right now, we just cannot afford it,” he told Reuters.
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