Poles respond to Kaliningrad arms race

Poles respond to Kaliningrad arms race

Much of Kaliningrad was flattened during the war. Source: IHA

A senior Polish military officer has announced that his armed forces may seek more naval strike missiles to establish a third coastal squadron along the Baltic Sea, according to Defence News.

The Nato member shares a 200km border with the Russian coastal exclave of Kaliningrad and has expressed serious concern over increased military activity.

Defence analyst David Andelman said the so-called Suwalki Gap could be the focus of future conflict. The 100km stretch of territory links Kaliningrad with Belarus, an ally of Russia.

Nato generals fear that if Putin advanced across the gap, he could “seal” off the three Baltic states rapidly in any conflict. Andelman told CNN: “If [Russian President] Vladimir Putin takes comfort in Nato’s waffling, or doubts US willingness to spring to the defence of the Baltic republics, it’s here any shootout between Nato and Russia could start. Or even World War Three.”

Moscow has recently expanded the ballistic capability of its Baltic fleet after Nato announced its largest, post-Cold-War deployment near its members’ eastern borders. Now Poland was considering its own need for reinforcements by adding a third naval missile strike squadron, using weapons from Norwegian arms supplier Kongsberg, defence minister Bartosz Kownacki said.

“We are considering this, but please note that our current reconnaissance capability is insufficient. This is a significant issue. Such a squadron has a strike range of about 200[km], but our radars have a range that is considerably shorter,” Kownacki told the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper.

“There are several solutions that could be used. We could consider to ensure reconnaissance capabilities with the use of drones, and in the future, also through merging [naval missiles] with the Wisla [air-and-missile defence] system,” Kownacki said.

He said the Polish submarine fleet might also be enhanced with three vessels due to be bought in 2017 in collaboration with Norway, Sweden or Germany.

Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic territory seized from Germany at the end of the Second World War, has been a focal point for recent tensions. It is the most heavily militarised area of Europe.

Finland and Estonia have accused Russian forces of violating their airspace while the Kremlin says Nato uses sabre-rattling to threaten Russia. In October, Russia deployed nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad and the US has called on Nato to deploy a strategic battle group to Poland.

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