Russia deploys nuclear-capable missiles on NATO’s doorstep

An Iskander-E short-range ballistic missile launcher
An Iskander-E short-range ballistic missile launcher

Russia is again deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad outpost that borders two NATO members, Lithuania said Saturday, warning the move was aimed at pressuring the West into making concessions over Syria and Ukraine.

Poland also reacted angrily to Moscow’s move while Lithuania added that it could breach a key nuclear weapons treaty.

“Russia is holding military exercises in Kaliningrad, and its scenario includes deployment of Iskander missile systems and the possible use of them. We are aware of it,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP.

He said modified Iskander missiles had a range of up to 435 miles which means they could reach the German capital of Berlin from the Russian exclave, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday confirmed deployment of the Iskander hardware but dismissed Western concerns, saying that “contingents of missile troops have been moved many times and will continue to be moved to Kaliningrad region as part of a Russian armed forces training plan.”

Moscow sent Iskanders to Kaliningrad in 2015 as part of a series of mammoth military drills as tensions with the West reached their worst point since the Cold War, triggered by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its military campaign in Syria a year later.

Judy Dempsey, a Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe, told AFP Saturday that Moscow’s latest Iskander deployment to Kaliningrad is “a way to divide the West” just weeks before the US presidential election.

“These types of moves by Russia are making the Europeans and the US nervous. Putin is pressing all the buttons,” Dempsey said.

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