Russia amassing troops at borders in challenge to NATO

A Russian military helicopter flies over Ivan the Great bell-tower and Moscow's Kremlin during a general rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square on May 9 to celebrate 71 years after the victory in WWII in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russia is set to establish three new military divisions — around 30,000 troops — along its borders in a direct challenge to western allies’ troop buildup in the region.

NATO revealed last month that it would be sending around 4,000 troops to Poland and the former Soviet countries in the Baltic.

Now Moscow has hit back by announcing its own plans to expand its military presence.

“The Defense Ministry is taking a series of measures in order to counter the expansion of NATO forces in direct proximity to the Russian border,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday on state television.

“By the end of the year two new divisions will be formed in the western military district and one in the southern military district.”

The Pentagon has said new NATO troop deployments are in response to Russia’s “provocative” military exercises along its borders. Since December, Russia has staged more than 1,000 war games, but insists they are simply responding to increased NATO presence along its Western borders.

Tensions continue to rise in the region. Last month, Russian warplanes and a military helicopter repeatedly buzzed the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook as it carried out operations on the Baltic Sea.

Russia has spent billions of dollars in recent months upgrading its military and modernizing its arms industry.

President Vladimir Putin has promised to spend more than $300 billion to revamp Russia’s fighting forces by the end of the decade.

Moscow is planning to add a further 10,000 recruits to its military this year in its aim to have a million men and women fighting force.

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