MOSCOW (Dispatches) - Russia will create new military bases in the western portion of the country, in what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described as “adequate countermeasures” to Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
In a speech on Friday, Shoigu said the bid by the two Nordic countries was among several military threats that have increased in recent years along Russia’s northwestern border.
Those threats also included the United States stepping up strategic bomber flights, sending warships to the Baltic Sea and intensifying training exercises in the region with its NATO partners, he said.
“Tension continues to grow in the zone of responsibility of the Western Military District. We are taking adequate countermeasures,” Shoigu said, as Moscow’s forces continue their operation in Ukraine.
“By the end of the year, 12 military units and divisions will be established in the Western Military District,” he added.
This will be accompanied by a surge in military equipment and weapons.
“This year, we intend to get more than 2,000 pieces of such equipment,” Shoigu said.
Security concerns driven by Russia’s operation, which began on February 24, led Finland and Sweden to break from longstanding policies of neutrality and move to join NATO.
Finland shares 1,340km-long (830 miles) land border with Russia, while Sweden shares a maritime boundary.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Thursday that he had received their applications to join the bloc, in what could represent one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades.
U.S. Senate Passes $40bn in Aid for Ukraine
The U.S. Senate has approved more than $40 billion in new “aid” for Ukraine, which has been the site of a Russian military operation since February.
The legislative body gave its blessing to the monumental package on Thursday, with 86 votes in favor and 11 against, the Bloomberg news agency reported.
“The message this sends is that the United States is committed, that we are going to stand with any country that is a democracy when there is an autocracy that attempts to overrun it,” Idaho Republican Jim Risch alleged.
This comes after objections by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul had delayed passage of the bill for an entire week.
“If Congress really believed giving Ukraine $40bn was in our national interest, they could easily pay for it by taxing every income taxpayer $500,” Paul tweeted on Thursday.
The bill cleared the House of Representatives last week on a 368 to 57 vote.