By Alexander Marrow
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is increasing its military presence in the Far East in response to rising tensions in the wider region, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.
In remarks cited on the defence ministry website, Shoigu said reinforcements were being sent because of tensions in the “eastern strategic direction”, referring to an area encompassing Russia’s eastern border with China and the wider Asia-Pacific.
Shoigu did not specify what the new threats were, or where the additional troops would go. He promised 500 units of new and modernised equipment for the region, as well as some improvements to the navy’s Northern Fleet.
Alexander Gabuev, an analyst at Moscow’s Carnegie Centre, said Russia was ensuring it has sufficient military capabilities in an area where conflicts could spill over, noting a rising risk of a naval clash between the United States and China.
“Russia cannot be left defenceless and it also needs to operate its capabilites there, in terms of air force, defence and personnel,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s concerns in the Far East centred around the actions of powers from outside the region, without specifying any countries or conflicts.
“All of these, of course, do not contribute to stability in this region,” said Peskov.
Russia’s Far East has also lately seen one of the longest sustained anti-government protest movements of President Vladimir Putin’s two decades in power. The city of Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border, has seen weeks of demonstrations against the arrest of a local political leader.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Peter Graff)