Moscow will deploy S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems in the exclave of Kaliningrad in retaliation for NATO deployments, a senior pro-Kremlin lawmaker was quoted as saying today (21 November).
Russia has previously said it periodically sends Iskanders to Kaliningrad, but until now it has said these were routine drills. Moscow has not linked the moves explicitly with what it says is a NATO military build-up on Russia’s western borders.
The United States switched on an $800 million missile shield in Romania yesterday (12 May) that it sees as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal.
After the election of Donald Trump, who has said he wants closer ties with the Kremlin and has questioned the cost of protecting NATO allies, some analysts predict an emboldened Moscow could become more assertive in Eastern Europe.
Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defence committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, said in remarks reported by RIA news agency that Russia was forced to react to the planned US missile shield in eastern Europe.
“As response measures to such threats we will have… to deploy additional forces… This reinforcement includes deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad,” the agency quoted Ozerov as saying.
The defence ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Ozerov’s remarks.
Also on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted talking about how Russia has to respond to what it perceives as a threat from US-led forces in Eastern Europe.
Russia is reinforcing its Baltic Fleet in Kaliningrad with two small warships armed with long-range cruise missiles to counter what it sees as a worrying NATO build-up in the region, Izvestia reported today (26 October).
“Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO’s decision making,” RIA quoted him as saying in an interview for a documentary that will be broadcast by Russian TV later on Monday.
“What should we do? We have, therefore, to take countermeasures, which means to target with our missile systems the facilities, that, in our opinion, start posing a threat to us,” Putin said.