Moscow Announces Dramatic Expansion of Military Forces in Western Direction

June 7, 2021

The Jamestown Foundation:

On Monday, May 31, Russia’s long-serving defense minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu, delivered remarks at a meeting of the so-called Ministry of Defense Collegium (a top brass ministry panel). Among the topics he discussed, Shoigu focused on the alleged growing threat of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) military activities along Russia’s western borders. Russian military parlance designates this area as the Western Strategic Direction (Zapdnoye Strategicheskoye Napravlenye). Shoigu specifically mentioned this year’s major NATO exercise, Defender Europe 2021 as a destabilizing factor. Defender Europe is reminiscent of NATO’s Cold War–era annual “Reforger” (from REturn of FORces to GERmany) exercises, undertaken to test the ability to ship troops to West Germany from the continental United States in an event of an armed conflict with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Reforger also involved troops from other NATO countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. Defender Europe was initially planned for 2020 and would have comprised some 40,000 North Atlantic Alliance troops from different member states along with an entire armored division shipped from the US to Poland and the Baltic region. It was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has been rescheduled for this year. Russia is enacting its own strategic Zapad (“West”) 2021 exercises in September 2021, together with Belarus. As an “additional” countermeasure, Shoigu announced the deployment of “some 20 major military units in the Western Military District [Zapadny Voyenny Okrug—ZVO] before the end of 2021” (, May 31)…

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