Following the adoption of its new military doctrine signed by President Vladimir Putin in December which identifies NATO expansion as an external risk, it is perhaps hardly surprising that, as Reuters reports, Russia's top general, Valery Garesimov stated that the "Defence Ministry will focus its efforts on increasing the combat capabilities of its units and increasing combat strength.. with special attention will be given to the groups in Crimea." Amid renewed heavy shelling in Donetsk, NATO's top military commander noted they will be stepping up exercises in the Baltic Sea region as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin warns, "the situation in eastern Ukraine is deteriorating."
Russia's top general said on Tuesday he would beef up combat capabilities this year in Crimea, the Arctic and the country's westernmost Kaliningrad region that borders two NATO states.
The remarks by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, are likely to deepen concern in the West over what it sees as Russia increasingly flexing its muscles since the start of the crisis in Ukraine.
"In 2015, the Defence Ministry will focus its efforts on increasing the combat capabilities of its units and increasing combat strength in accordance with the military development plans," Gerasimov told Russian journalists.
"Special attention will be given to the groups in Crimea, the Kaliningrad region and the Arctic," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies but gave no further details.
His remarks follow the adoption of a new military doctrine signed by President Vladimir Putin in December which underlines the need to protect Russia's interests in the Arctic and identifies NATO expansion as an external risk.
Russia deployed 14 military jets to Crimea last November as part of a squadron of 30 that will be stationed there, making clear it intends to strengthen its presence on the peninsula since annexing it from Kiev last March.
And NATO is not standing still...
NATO's top military commander, General Philip Breedlove, said the alliance was already looking at stepping up exercises in the Baltic Sea region in response to a rise in Russian military manoeuvres there late last year.
Breedlove warned at the time that Russia's "militarization" of Crimea could be used to exert control over the Black Sea.
He said on Tuesday NATO was considering adapting a programme of military exercises in the Baltic Sea region, where he said Russian activities had changed in character and showed capabilities not seen before.
"The first series of changes will not be an increase in number but they will be to group them together ... to better prepare our forces and to allow nations to work together as a NATO force, but we are looking at increasing some exercises," he said at a NATO base at Szczecin in northwest Poland.
NATO has boosted its military presence in eastern Europe, saying it has evidence Russia orchestrated and armed the rebellion in eastern Ukraine last year that followed the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed president in Kiev.
And Bloomberg confirms, Russian Foreign Ministry Sees Ukraine Conflict Worsening
Situation in eastern Ukraine is deteriorating, RIA Novosti reports, citing Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.
It’s time for Ukraine govt to make decisions: Karasin
And as the following live feed and clips suggest, he is not wrong...
Live Feed (following the "leave Doetsk Airport Or Die" Threats...
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Ironically, this increased sbare-rattling comes at a time when Dow Jones reports what appears like Europe's continued efforts at detente with Russia...
The European Union could significantly scale back sanctions and resume discussions with Russia on issues from visa-free travel, co-operation with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the crisis in Libya, Syria and Iraq if Russia moves to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine, according to an EU discussion paper.
While insisting the EU cannot return to "business as usual" with Moscow, the paper suggests the EU consider gradually normalizing many aspects of its ties with Russia in what would be a significant shift in relations. It says that would depend on Moscow fully implementing the peace and cease-fire deals it signed with Ukraine, standing by its gas-supply agreement with Ukraine and throwing no fresh wrenches in the way of the EU-Ukraine trade and political pact.
The paper, which has not yet been sent to member states, was prepared by the EU's foreign-policy arm ahead of a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels. No immediate decisions are expected from that meeting where the EU's medium-term approach to Russia is the main item on the agenda. EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic will visit Moscow on Wednesday for discussions with top officials from the government and the state gas company Gazprom.
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Just when you thought it was all over...