Russia plans to establish 12 new military bases along the western region of Russia as a response to Sweden and Finland applying to join NATO. The announcement was made by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last Friday, saying that the new facilities will be up and running “by the end of the year.”

Shoigu said that “12 military bases and units will be deployed in the Western Military District,” telling senior ministry and military officials in attendance that there was increasing “growth of military threats on Russia’s borders.”

In his address, the minister added that the Russian army is also expecting to receive over two thousand troops, equipment and arms.

The news follows the announcement of Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO, which Russia sees as its major security threat in Europe. The move comes as a major policy shift from the two Nordic countries that have adopted military non-alignment for decades.

Having both Sweden and Finland join the 30-nation alliance widens the front Russia has to cover in the event of an armed conflict. In particular, Finland has the longest shared border with Russia of any country at 830 miles (1,340 kilometers).

Public and government support for joining NATO sharply rose in the two countries after Russian President Vladimir Putin waged his so-called “special military operation” against Ukraine late in February. Ironically, the expansion of NATO towards Russia was one of Putin’s justifications for declaring his invasion, which he now ultimately caused.

Swedish and Finnish Ambassadors to NATO submitting their application to NATO (Sweden at NATO). Source: https://twitter.com/SwedenNato/status/1526803766174949377/media_tags
Swedish and Finnish Ambassadors to NATO submitting their application to NATO (Sweden at NATO/Twitter)

Putin has said that the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in the western alliance did not pose a direct significant threat to Moscow but cautioned that the Kremlin would respond if NATO chose to establish military facilities in the two countries.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,” Putin said during a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. This alliance comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia.

“What that (response) will be – we will see what threats are created for us,” Putin added. “Problems are being created for no reason at all. We shall react accordingly.”

What Is The CSTO?

The CSTO is quite similar to NATO. If NATO has Article 5, the CSTO has Article 4, which essentially is a Russian version of Article 5. If one member-state gets attacked, then it would be perceived as aggression against all members.

The only problem is that these governments are lukewarm toward Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with Belarus the only one in full support of it. During the UN’s historic vote regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine last March, with 141 states voting in favor, 5 voting against, and 35 abstaining, Belarus was the only one of the CSTO members to vote against. Amenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan all abstained.

A CSTO Summit in 2018 with the leaders of each country posing for a photograph (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSTO_Summit_03.jpg
A CSTO Summit in 2018 with the leaders of each country posing for a photograph (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kazakhstan even went so far as to cancel their Victory Day celebrations on May 9th, refusing to take part in a celebration that is the biggest public event in Russia. Their government has been largely neutral about the invasion, walking a diplomatic tight rope that sees the Kazakh government not condemning but also not approving of their ally’s actions.

Kazakhstan even went so far as to send humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, mostly supplying medical supplies, food, and bedding throughout March. Furthermore, a large majority of the Kazakh people have expressed their displease over the invasion, conducting anti-war protests in Almaty last March with over 5,000 participants.

12 New Bases Plus Another Base in Ukraine

The Kremlin-appointed administration in the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine has proposed to set up a military base within its territory.

Since the invasion began, Russia was able to seize land, particularly in the Kherson region, which is adjacent to the annexed region of Crimea. There, a new administration under Moscow was established and was said to have also adopted the Russian ruble.

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“There should be a Russian military base in the Kherson region,” deputy head of the “civil-military regional administration” of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said.

“We will ask for this, and this is what the whole population wants. This is essential and will be a guarantor of security for the region and its inhabitants.”

Stremousov was also the leader who asked Russia to directly annex Kherson, expressing that there would be no referendums in the city, stating that it would be somehow internationally recognized by the world. However, we all know that even if it were done through annexation or through a referendum, the international community wouldn’t recognize its legitimacy anyway.

It is also important to note that Russia had recently claimed that it gained full control of Mariupol after the Ukrainian forces defending the Azovstal Steel Plant were ordered to stand down so that they could avoid annihilation.  They are currently in Russian hands, with some of them awaiting trial for so-called “war crimes” as they were branded as “Nazis” by the Russians.