Amid NATO exercises, Russia puts Northern Fleet on ‘full alert’

Updated 5:39 PM EDT, Tue March 17, 2015
tsr dnt starr nato vs putin_00000230.jpg
tsr dnt starr nato vs putin_00000230.jpg
Now playing
02:06
Russia moves nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea
Chance Putin Crimea referendum_00002430.jpg
Chance Putin Crimea referendum_00002430.jpg
Now playing
02:09
Putin: Russia was ready to put nukes on alert
Russia's President Vladimir Putin stands in front of the 6 meters long Tsar Pushka (Tsar Cannon), one of the Russian landmarks displayed in the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 31, 2014. A defiant Russia said yesterday that Western sanctions over Ukraine would backfire on the United States and lead to energy price hikes in Europe after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against Moscow since the Cold War.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
Russia's President Vladimir Putin stands in front of the 6 meters long Tsar Pushka (Tsar Cannon), one of the Russian landmarks displayed in the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 31, 2014. A defiant Russia said yesterday that Western sanctions over Ukraine would backfire on the United States and lead to energy price hikes in Europe after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against Moscow since the Cold War.
Now playing
01:16
Does Putin want war in Ukraine?
RT
Now playing
02:34
'Night Wolves' motorcycle gang: We will die for Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during the youth forum 'Seliger-2014' at Seliger lake, northern Russia, on August 29, 2014. Putin insisted that Kiev must enter substantial talks with pro-Russian rebels amid a dramatic escalation of the fighting in Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / RIA-NOVOSTI / POOL / MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVMIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during the youth forum 'Seliger-2014' at Seliger lake, northern Russia, on August 29, 2014. Putin insisted that Kiev must enter substantial talks with pro-Russian rebels amid a dramatic escalation of the fighting in Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / RIA-NOVOSTI / POOL / MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVMIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:26
Putin: Don't mess with us, we're nuclear
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:56
Is Russia arming up for a new Cold War?
orig pkg jrt Russia's military might_00000005.jpg
orig pkg jrt Russia's military might_00000005.jpg
Now playing
01:09
Putin's fighters, missiles, warships
orig what next for putin_00012222.jpg
Getty Images
orig what next for putin_00012222.jpg
Now playing
01:23
Putin: Still strong in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014.
Now playing
02:37
Does Putin have Asperger's?
orig egypt russian anthem fail_00003203.jpg
Al Masriya
orig egypt russian anthem fail_00003203.jpg
Now playing
01:04
Egypt welcomes Putin with mangled Russian anthem
russia military expansion sciutto orig mg_00003202.jpg
russia military expansion sciutto orig mg_00003202.jpg
Now playing
01:52
Russia's $730 billion war machine
lkl mclaughlin russia demonstrations_00000406.jpg
lkl mclaughlin russia demonstrations_00000406.jpg
Now playing
01:35
Thousands march in support of Putin
wbt intv judah_00001505.jpg
wbt intv judah_00001505.jpg
Now playing
02:55
Putin's popularity might not be what it seems
von putin peng liyuan scarf_00001430.jpg
von putin peng liyuan scarf_00001430.jpg
Now playing
01:01
Putin puts move on China's first lady
Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:34
'The 12 Labors of Putin'
idesk.walker.putin.on.tshirt_00001005.jpg
idesk.walker.putin.on.tshirt_00001005.jpg
Now playing
01:37
Putin t-shirts are a hot seller in Moscow
sot newsroom chance putin reappears_00002917.jpg
sot newsroom chance putin reappears_00002917.jpg
Now playing
02:20
Vladimir Putin reappears after mysterious absence
Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on while speaking with journalists in Itamaraty Palace in Brazilia, early on July 17, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images
Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on while speaking with journalists in Itamaraty Palace in Brazilia, early on July 17, 2014.
Now playing
05:29
Vladimir Putin's private life revealed

Story highlights

Russia's land, sea and air drill will involve 38,000 troops, 41 ships and 110 aircraft

Kremlin calls drill routine, but diplomat says Russia is "very concerned" by NATO drills

Operation Atlantic Resolve billed as response to Russian actions in Ukraine, Crimea

CNN —  

As the U.S. and several Eastern European NATO countries conduct a series of military exercises near Russia’s border, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his Northern Fleet “to full alert in a snap combat readiness exercise” in the Arctic, state-run media reported Monday.

At least one Russian leader described the drill as routine and unrelated to the “international situation.”

The fleet got its orders at 8 a.m. Monday, according to Sputnik, launching a land, sea and air drill that will involve 38,000 troops, 41 ships, 15 submarines and 110 aircraft.

“The main task of the (combat readiness drill) is to assess the armed forces from the Northern Fleet’s capabilities in fulfilling tasks in providing military security of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region,” Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu told the media outlet. “New challenges and threats of military security demand the further heightening of military capabilities of the armed forces and special attention will be paid to the state of the newly formed strategic merging (of forces) in the North.”

The drills will run through Friday, Sputnik reported.

A flotilla of minesweepers will support the Northern Fleet’s nuclear submarines in the Barents Sea as part of the drill, the Tass news agency reported, citing a Defense Ministry statement.

“Mine-sweeping groups of the Kola Flotilla have moved to the designated areas of the Barents within the framework of a snap check of combat readiness of the Northern Fleet forces for supporting the deployment of the main forces of the fleet, including the deployment of nuclear and diesel submarines of the Northern Fleet,” the statement says.

The ships will conduct magnetic, acoustic and contact demining sweeps during the drill, Tass reported.

Despite a number of countries participating in various military drills in Eastern Europe, a Kremlin spokesman described the Northern Fleet inspection as routine practice aimed at improving military capabilities.

“The practice of snap checks will become regular, as it is beneficial for improving the mechanisms of control and operation of the armed forces. This is an absolutely regular process of the armed forces’ operation, of preparation and development of Russia’s armed forces,” Dmitry Peskov told Tass on Monday.

Conversely, a diplomat told Tass that Russia was “deeply concerned” about NATO drills near its border.

“It is especially surprising that this is happening in Northeastern Europe, which is the most stable region not only on our continent, but also maybe in the whole world,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said. “Such NATO actions lead to destabilization of the situation and increasing tensions in Northeastern Europe.”

Among the recent drills in Eastern Europe:

• In its largest military operation in decades, Norway sent 5,000 troops to conduct military exercises between Alta and Lakselv in Finnmark county, which borders Russia, according to the Barents Observer.

• About 100 U.S. soldiers are expected to conduct an exercise this month using a Patriot missile battery and a Polish air defense brigade “at a location on Polish territory,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said. The exercise is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in response to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea last year, the U.S. Defense Department said.

• Also as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the U.S. Army will soon send armored Stryker vehicles on a 1,100-mile convoy through six European countries to show solidarity with its allies. The “highly visible” convoy will travel through Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic en route to Vilseck, Germany, a U.S. Army Europe spokesman told the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

• In a “regularly scheduled” exercise aimed at demonstrating NATO’s commitment to “collective defense” in the Black Sea, the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two – a collection of warships – will train with the Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish navies and visit Varna, Bulgaria, to meet with local authorities and navy officials, NATO said.

• The U.S. Air Force moved a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt “tankbuster” attack jets to an air base in Germany and the U.S. military placed hundreds of tanks and military vehicles in Latvia, where they’ll be matched up with 3,000 troops from Fort Stewart, Georgia.

CNN’s Brad Lendon contributed to this report.