Russia threat: Putin pushes towards West – as Trump pulls troops out of Germany

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The move, coming at the same time as US President Donald Trump confirmed plans to withdraw almost 10,000 troops from Germany, offers a clear indication of the spiralling tension which increasingly characterises Moscow’s relations with the West. Russia’s Western Military District press service yesterday announced the Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Sevastopol Red Banner Brigade was being deployed to Moscow’s Novomoskovsky Administrative District.

It will link up with the Guards Red Banner Tank Army “to perform tasks on ensuring the defense of the Russian Federation in the Western strategic direction,” state news agency Tass reported.

The units are equipped with “more modern weapons and specialised vehicles,” including T-90A tanks, BTR-82A armoured carriers, BMP-3 combat vehicles, and 9A34 Strela-10 and 2S6M Tunguska air defence systems, according to the Russian military.

Speaking on Monday, senior commander Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff voiced his anger at “anti-Russian” activities conducted by the US and NATO allies close to his country’s borders in March.

Mr Rudskoi discussed the drills as “provocative”, claiming Moscow had not been informed until the latest possible stage, stressing Russia would not conduct any major military exercises close to its borders with NATO member states even though, he claimed, there had been a “significant increase in NATO military activity near the Russian borders”.

The exercises, though scaled back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, nevertheless involved US aerial activity over the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sweden and Norway in northern Europe, and in Ukraine.

In the Arctic, a trio of US Navy Sixth Fleet destroyers entered the Barents Sea for the first time in three decades, staging missile defense drills alongside UK vessels.

At the time, US Sixth Fleet commander Navy Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti said: “In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we maintain our steady drumbeat of operations across the European theater while taking prudent measures to protect the health of our force.

“We remain committed to promoting regional security and stability, while building trust and reinforcing a foundation of Arctic readiness.”

One NATO official told US magazine Newsweek: “NATO remains open to dialogue with Russia on military risk reduction and transparency, which is why in February we proposed to the Russian side to hold another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. Unfortunately Russia has so far not shown any interest in a meeting.”

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“NATO Allies also continue to call on Russia to follow existing transparency rules and to engage constructively in modernising the Vienna Document on military activities.”

Speaking yesterday, a US defence official said Mr Trump had ordered the military to remove 9,500 troops from Germany, in a move likely to raise concerns in Europe.

The move would cut the number of US troops numbers in Germany to 25,000, from the 34,500 who are currently based there.

The official, who did not want to be identified, said the move was the result of months of work by America’s top military officer, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and was unrelated tensions between Mr Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted Trump’s plan to host a G7 meeting this month.

A second senior administration official said the 9,500 troops would be sent elsewhere, some to Poland, some to other allied countries, while some would return home.

Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on Senate Armed Services Committee, said the move was “petty and preposterous.”

Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the move was a “huge gift” for Russia.

He tweeted: “With one fell swoop, Trump is showing once again that our alliances are nothing more than a political plaything.”

The White House said it had no announcements but Trump “continually reassesses the best posture for the United States military forces.”

In the statement, White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said the United States remained committed to working with Germany on defence and other issues.

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