Russia’s top security officials posture ahead of Putin-Biden summit

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will hold a summit meeting later this month – ERIC BARADAT/AFP

Russia’s two top security officials have warned about Moscow’s potential military build-up and use of force in what was seen as posturing ahead of a summit meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin later this month.

Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, said on Monday that Russia would form 20 new “units and formations” in the country’s west until the end of the year in response to a growing NATO threat.

There were no immediate details about the number of troops involved or the location of the new bases but Mr Shoigu said that military units in Russia’s west are expected to receive 2,000 new pieces of weaponry this year.

NATO last week launched major military drills, involving thousands of troops, dozens of aircraft and several warships across the Atlantic and Europe.

Mr Shoigu comments came less than two months after Russia withdrew most of the troops from its border with Ukraine following massive military drills which unnerved Ukraine and NATO and raised the spectre of renewed hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

Nikolai Patrushev, one of Mr Putin’s closest advisers and chairman of the Security Council, built on Mr Shoigu’s message later on Monday by revealing that a new version of Russia’s national security strategy could include the language about a use of force to deal with “hostile actions” by foreign nations.

Mr Patrushev, who is known as one of Russia’s most influential hawks, said in an interview with the state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Monday that Russia will resort to economic sanctions “but also coercive forceful methods if necessary” to respond to any actions from abroad that might ultimately threaten Russia’s sovereignty.

The wording is expected to be included in the revised version of Russia’s national security strategy that was last amended in 2015.

Mr Shoigu and Mr Patrushev’s remarks send a strong signal of defiance ahead of the much-anticipated meeting between President Putin and President Biden.

Mr Patrushev last week held talks with Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, to discuss the preparations for the summit slated for June 16 in Geneva.

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