The U.S. Marines have ramped up their presence in Europe in the past few years, especially after Russia's annexation of the Crimea. In March, hundreds of U.S. Marines conducted drills with Romanian troops on the Black Sea coast.
A senior Russian legislator has condemned recent reports that the Western military alliance NATO was seeking to expand its military infrastructure, and he has threatened Russian reciprocation.
Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the defense committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, responded Wednesday to reports that NATO was looking to reorganize its structure to include two new commands designed to boost its mobility across Europe and to bolster its military forces in the Arctic, where Russia has also increasingly set its sights. Touting Russia's military prowess, Shyvtkin said Moscow would be willing to defend its western borders with new formations of its own.
"It is clear to everyone that Russia does not carry aggression against any state. Russia has the most powerful army in the world, but we are not initiating the creation of any additional factions in the West or any other direction," Shvytkin said, according to Russia's state-run RIA Novosti.
"If this really happens, we will certainly react by strengthening our military potential in the direction of the West," he added.
NATO officials have said the two new commands, reports about which first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, were planned in response to Russia's growing military capabilities and to provide a greater deterrence for coalition member states. Since Russia's annexation of the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea in March 2014, NATO has sought to increase its power. Last year, it established battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Moscow views these moves, as well as a massive U.S. missile shield across Europe, as a Western plan to surround and undermine Russia's defenses. Russia has reinforced its militarized Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad with Iskander missile systems and is in the process of modernizing its armed forces. Both NATO and Russia have embarked on a near-constant cycle of military drills on their respective sides of the border.
“The timing of such a conflict is likely to be determined by miscalculation as much as decision-making in Iran and Lebanon.”
The group said that should such a war break out, it will likely be “more violent and destructive than the previous ones,” due to the improvements that both sides have made to their respective military capabilities in the interim.