NATO is creating a "striking fist" near Russia's borders, strengthening its military presence in Eastern Europe in close proximity to Russia, said Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
Zakharova’s statement was made in response to the reports about NATO's plans to hold Defender Europe-2020 military exercises in April and May. The exercises will be held by the United States but will involve other NATO members.
According to Zakharova, the U.S. is "systematically increasing its armed forces in Eastern Europe" near the borders with Russia, as well as increasing funding for military programs in this region. "Now, neither NATO nor Washington is hiding that the "potential adversary" in these exercises is Russia,” said Zakharova.
She cited a statement made by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on March 5 that the purpose of the exercise "is to send a message to Russia to change its "bad behavior".
"It is obvious that our country is not threatening anyone, and it’s NATO that is preparing for a punch at the Russian border," the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman said.
She also noted that the exercises will coincide with Russia’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II. “Today, Washington is using the same rhetoric which was used by Nazi Germany to unleash the war against the USSR,” she said.
"Of course, the aggressive intentions of the United States and NATO will be taken into account in our military planning," the Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman said, adding that NATO's actions only increase international tensions.
In an interview with the newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia's response to Defender Europe-2020 exercises was inevitable. "Of course, we will respond. And, of course, we will respond in such a way that it does not create any unnecessary risks," Lavrov said. He said the exercises were "very concerning."
Lavrov suggested that those who carry out such exercises "want to provoke retaliatory steps in order to increase tensions." Lavrov pointed out that Russia's response to such NATO maneuvers will take place only in its territory.
Defender Europe 2020 exercises will be the largest U.S. military deployment to Europe in 25 years.
20,000 US troops and 17,000 military from other countries will take part in them.
"The U.S. contingent will operate in conjunction with its European and NATO allies in activities focused on strengthening readiness and interoperability, showing recognition amongst the countries that capability in partnership is essential," reads the statement on the website of Defender Europe 2020.