MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Defense Minister says Russia and Belarus need to expand their military cooperation amid a NATO buildup.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday that close ties between the neighboring and allied nations are especially important when "NATO is expanding its military presence near our borders."
Shoigu says NATO's actions "undermine strategic stability and make it necessary to take retaliatory defensive measures."
Russia and Belarus held joint military drills this year that rattled some NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland.
Shoigu alleges that Western worries about the Zapad (West) 2017 exercises were a cover for NATO activities close to Russia and Belarus, "including training for the use of nuclear weapons."
He says Russia and Belarus need to develop their forces to "deter and repulse a possible aggression."