The Kremlin seems intent on strengthening the capabilities of its armed forces on the border with NATO.
An announcement from the Western Military District specified that over 20 attack helicopters would be sent to the region by the end of the year. The movement is part of a large-scale program to strengthen and modernize the Russian military at a time of increased tensions with NATO and the West, writes Kukil Bora for The International Business Times.
Helicopters to be deployed near NATO border
The move may be interpreted as a response to the growing NATO presence in countries which border Russia, and the new helicopters will be deployed in the country’s westernmost regions.
“New army aircraft are equipped with cutting-edge electronics that allow them to perform training and combat tasks 24 hours a day in any weather conditions,” said Col. Oleg Kochetkov, chief of Russia’s Western Military District’s press service, according to Sputnik News.
The helicopters include Mi-28Ns, Mi-26Ts and Mi-8MTV5s made by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, which will be stationed in the regions of Leningrad, Pskov and Smolensk.
Russia increasing military presence in Eastern Europe
Officials made the announcement this Tuesday, and it followed hot on the heels of the news that NATO is considering maintaining a rapid response force of around 40,000 troops. The Spearhead Force is expected to be deployed largely in Eastern Europe, and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that Washington will send aircraft, weapons and troops to the region to maintain security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced a $400 billion plan to modernize the country’s armed forces, and it appears that Russia is pushing ahead with the program. Along with the new helicopters, there are plans to upgrade each and every Ilyushin-38 anti-submarine plane in the Russian fleet, according to the TASS news agency.
Naval aviation commander Igor Kozhin is quoted in the report, stating that “the contract is in the discussion phase. It is impossible to name any specific figures at this point (number of planes and dates), but the entire fleet is to undergo upgrade.”
Kozhin went on to specify that the new Ilyushin-38N will feature an advanced search and track system known as “Novella-P-38,” and the planes will be ready to fly by 2020.
Ambitious military modernization program
Further evidence of the military modernization program is provided by the announcement that Russia will add 8 ships and 2 submarines to its Navy by the end of 2015. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that two diesel-electric subs will form part of the Black Sea Fleet, while the 8 new ships include the corvette Sovershenny (Perfect) and the first frigate Admiral Gorshkov.
Moscow has also outlined plans to build thousands of the technologically advanced Armata tank, as well as investing heavily in other vehicles and weapons. Despite doubts as to how the program will be paid for, given the effects of Western sanctions and lower oil prices on the Russian economy, Putin seems bullish.
During a recent speech he promised that $400 billion would be spent on military modernization by 2020, and this flurry of announcements of new equipment would appear to suggest that the program has started strongly. It seems unlikely that spending will reach the level promised by Putin, but it is not just the new equipment which should be of concern to NATO.
The fact that Russia is fortifying its western border contributes to a growing concentration of troops and military hardware in Eastern Europe, and heightens the risk of devastating conflict. Both sides are to blame for the ongoing game of military brinkmanship, but a complete lack of trust is impeding fruitful negotiations.