US works on military 'scenarios' near our borders - Russian defense minister
Sergey Shoigu expressed “grave concern” and “surprise” at US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s Wednesday speech during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference, which declared that US armed forces "must deal with a revisionist Russia - with its modern and capable army - on NATO's doorstep.”
"Chuck Hagel's thesis on the necessity for the American army to 'deal' with 'modern and capable' Russian armed forces on NATO's doorstep is of grave concern," TASS quoted Shoigu as saying. "This testifies to the fact that the Pentagon is working on scenarios for operations at the borders of our country.”
"I know US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel personally. That is why his speech at the US Army annual meeting in which he called Russia the main enemy surprised all of us, to put it mildly,” Shoigu noted.
The minister examined some of the recent conflicts US has been involved in, including Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, and asserted that “the regions in which the United States tries to promote democracy has a trend to fall into bloody chaos after the US accomplishes its missions.”
In terms of new threats at NATO’s borders, Shoigu said it is the US that has been “stubbornly approaching … closer to our doors.”
Shoigu proposed “unbiased and impartial dialogue” instead of “escalation of tensions behind someone’s backs.”
Washington responded on Thursday, stating that the US did not issue any threats in Hagel’s speech.
"There were no threatening comments in that speech aimed at any country," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a briefing on Thursday. He added that it would be "imprudent" for the US "not to be thinking about the kinds of readiness capabilities we need to have throughout Europe because we have significant treaty commitments through NATO to our allies there."
Relations between Russia and NATO have been tense since the alliance accused Russia of getting involved in the Ukrainian conflict, a claim Russia has continuously denied.
Following Crimea's reunification with Russia in March, the US and Europe bombarded Russia with sanctions and NATO significantly increased its military presence near Russia's borders, especially in Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Meanwhile, deputy commanding general of US Army Europe, Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt said on Thursday that there has a been a shift from meeting demands for Iraq and Afghanistan wars to "operational preparedness" in Europe through joint exercises and training via rotational deployments to Eastern Europe.
And US will have to do that with around 31,000 troops in Europe, Piatt said.
In the future US Army Europe wants to bring over a heavy brigade combat team and leave all the equipment in Europe after the exercise is finished for follow-on forces, the general added.
On Thursday US tanks arrived in Latvia in an apparent show of strength against Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.
Latvians, as well as their Baltic neighbors and Poland have welcomed the deployment of the troops and tanks as a deterrent to the perceived threat of Russia. This is one of the largest placements of US military forces into part of the former Soviet Union.