Moscow: In what underlines deepening fault lines in Russia-West ties, Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed new military document that enlisted Nato's military buildup near its border as the main military threat to Moscow.
Moscow has always been opposed to NATO's thickening troops presence in states bordering Russia like Poland or other Baltic states and even the previous version of military doctrine mentioned the Western military alliance as a threat.
However, the fresh military doctrine that has been signed by Putin comes at a time when Russia-West relations have been worsened to a great extent due to Ukraine crisis and hit one of its lowest levels, never seen since Cold War era.
The military document revision by Russia also comes just a couple of days after Ukraine dropped its non-aligned status, allowing it to apply for NATO membership. Russia has been accused of fomenting the Ukraine crisis by supplying arms to the separatists there and slapped with US and EU sanctions. Moscow however, denies the claim.
Striking an aggressive note, the new document also raised the possibility of Russia using precision conventional weapons as a "strategic deterrent". The new doctrine maintains the provisions of the previous, 2010 edition of the military doctrine regarding the use of nuclear weapons.
It says Russia could use nuclear weapons in retaliation to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, and also in case of aggression involving conventional weapons that "threatens the very existence" of the Russian state. But for the first time, the new doctrine says that Russia could use precision weapons "as part of strategic deterrent measures," without spelling out when and how Moscow could resort to them.
The doctrine placed "a buildup of NATO military potential and its empowerment with global functions implemented in violation of international law, the expansion of NATO's military infrastructure to the Russian borders" on top of military threats to Russia.
It pointed that that the deployment of foreign military forces on the territory of Russia's neighbors could be used for "political and military pressure."
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu responded by saying in a statement that the alliance "poses no threat to Russia or to any nation." "Any steps taken by NATO to ensure the security of its members are clearly defensive in nature, proportionate and in compliance with international law," she said.
"In fact, it is Russia's actions, including currently in Ukraine, which are breaking international law and undermining European security." Russia's relations with the West have plummeted to their lowest level since the Cold War times, and NATO cut off its ties with Russia after it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March. Ukraine and the West also have accused Moscow of fueling a pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons, accusations the Kremlin has denied.
With Agency Inputs