New divisions being deployed in western parts of Russia in 2016

The tank divisions will have the latest military vehicles – the T-72B3 and T-90 tanks.

The tank divisions will have the latest military vehicles – the T-72B3 and T-90 tanks.

Artyom Korotayev/TASS
Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s Defence Minister, said on January 12 that the government would deploy three new divisions in the western parts of the country in 2016. According to analysts, the decision is in response to NATO intensifying its activities near Russia’s western borders.

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said the defence department plans to create three new divisions in the Western areas of the country. He made the statement during his first teleconference meeting of 2016. The armed forces must not only create these military units, but also prepare places for their future deployment, Shoigu said, particularly designing additional polygons, places for the storage of equipment and placement of personnel.

Over the past two years, NATO leaders have moved heavy military equipment; tanks, self-propelled artillery installations and armoured personnel carriers; into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. NATO bloc armed forces regularly conduct military exercises near the Russian borders, and the United States has established a missile defence complex in Romania.

To deal with the increased NATO activities near Russian borders, Moscow has decided to strengthen its borders and move some of its latest military equipment to its western regions.

Changes in military strategy of Russia

The latest Russian National Defence Strategy considers NATO’s “continuous buildup of power potential” close to its borders as a direct threat to the security of the Russian Federation.

“Russia needs to increase the size of its armed forces. The easiest option is to start turning brigades into divisions,” said Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis. He believes NATO leaders will continue to react to Moscow’s actions using the same methods that were demonstrated over the last two years.

NATO armed forces conducted the military bloc’s largest ever exercises in Poland and the Baltic States in June 2015. 11,000 troops, 40 aircraft (including B-52 bombers), and more than 500 pieces of military equipment (including the Leopard 2A5 and the M1 Abrams tanks) participated in NATO’s ‘Saber Strike’ manoeuvres.

“The Alliance is bringing its military units closer to Russia’s borders and placing heavy armour into Lithuania and Latvia. The Polish leadership is now clamouring for additional military units and bases of the Alliance on its territory, to protect Poland against some kind of ‘Russian threat’,” RIR learned from retired Colonel Viktor Litovkin, military observer of TASS. He believes that Moscow should be prepared to protect its borders and modernize existing Western Military District brigades into divisions (divisions in peacetime: up to 13,000 people each).

“The tank divisions will have the latest military vehicles – the T-72B3 and T-90 tanks. The mechanized infantry will get the BMP-3 and BMP-4 machines, self-propelled guns of the Koalitsiya (Coalition) type. In the future, obsolete tanks will be replaced by machines of the Armata type. The divisions will also be provided with helicopters for fire support,” he said.

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