Russia Strengthens Western Flank as NATO Focuses on Eastern Borders – Russian President Putin has reportedly called on his military to improve its line of defense in the west of Ukraine as his military continues to fight on the streets of Kyiv and struggles to overcome the Ukrainian military and its vast NATO-supplied ammunition and weapons war chest.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Putin has called on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to direct the military to improve its line of defense on the western flank. Putin reportedly made the call even before NATO forces announced that there would be a greater military presence on its eastern flank.
Peskov said that Shoigu is now expected to provide specific proposals to the Russian president.
“We did not move in the direction of NATO, but NATO moved in our direction and thereby created a danger for us that triggers our concern,” Peskov said.
The comments are particularly worrying given recent comments from Peskov that the Russian Federation may feel compelled to use tactical nuclear weapons if the country faces an “existential threat.” While details about what an “existential threat” may constitute were not offered, an expansion of NATO to the East was a driving factor behind Russia’s decision to launch the invasion of Ukraine in the first place and could be enough for Putin to take yet more extreme action.
NATO Strengthens Eastern Flank
NATO announced earlier this week that four battlegrounds would be sent to its eastern flank, on the borders of Ukraine, to increase support for Ukrainian fighters in Kyiv. Stopping short of sending troops into Ukraine to assist with the fight, NATO continues to provide vital resources, supplies, ammunition, and weapons to Ukraine.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting in Brussels on Thursday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed NATO’s security environment for the long term.
“It’s a new reality, it’s a new normal, and NATO is responding,” he said.
Following the announcement, NATO forces directed four multinational battlegroups, each with up to 1,500 troops, to Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary. It means that NATO’s eastern flank will have double the number of battlegroups stationed in its eastern-most states than before.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.