Moscow eyes Kaliningrad nuclear base

Moscow eyes Kaliningrad nuclear base

Kaliningrad should be on everyone’s radar, especially while the world is gripped by the Brexit crisis. Source: Wikimedia

 

Moscow is looking to deploy advanced nuclear-capable missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad by 2019 in response to US-backed missile shield, and it may one day put them in Crimea too, Russian military sources predict.

The move would fuel the worst standoff between Russia and Nato since the Cold War. The missile, called the Iskander, the Persian name for Alexander the Great, in Kaliningrad would be capable of bypassing the Nato shield.

Russia has also agreed a deal to build an electronic intelligence-gathering base in Nicaragua. The deal between Moscow and Managua will also involve the sale of 50 T-72 tanks.

“The Russians plan to do a lot of things they have had in train for some time,” said Steven Pifer, former US ambassador to Ukraine. “There’s a long history in Moscow of saying what they’re doing is in response to what you guys did, even though they planned it in advance.”

Nato is due to hold a summit in Warsaw in July with the US, Britain and Germany saying they will command new battalions in Poland and the Baltic states.

Kaliningrad_map

A Polish missile defence site is due to open in late 2018. Mikhail Barabanov of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, which advises Russia’s defence ministry, predicted that the missiles would be deployed permanently by 2019.

“By all accounts, the deployment of the Iskanders in Kaliningrad Region is now inevitable,” Barabanov said. He added that the missile stationed in the former east Prussian city of Konigsberg were shorter-range Tochka-U missiles due for replacement. The Iskander replaced the Soviet Scud missile and its two guided missiles have a range of 500km and can carry nuclear warheads.

Russia has previously twice deployed Iskanders to Kaliningrad in exercises.

Washington says its shield is to shoot down missiles from Iran, although Moscow rejects that explanation.

After the US switched on the Romanian part of its shield earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin warned Romania and Poland could by targeted by Russian missiles.

“There’s a very high chance Iskanders will be deployed in Kaliningrad,” said Ivan Konovalov, director of the Centre for Strategic Trend Studies in Moscow. “But the Iskanders are our ace card in the standoff over missile defence and Nato’s activity around our borders. We need to use it cleverly. There’s a big game going on and we don’t want to throw it away at the start. We’ll play it when Russia needs it most politically.”

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