Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kaliningrad:Russia's Power Play in the Baltic Sea Region

The small Russian outpost of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea coastline between Poland and Lithuania has become,over the past decade,something of a flash point in East/West relations as Russia progressively militarised it.Continuing this trend,on Monday 21 November 2016,the Russian Interfax news agency announced that Russia has deployed its new Bastion mobile anti-ship missile to Kaliningrad,joining the Iskander-M short range nuclear capable ballistic missile and S-400 long range anti-aircraft missile already there.This has raised eyebrows in both NATO headquarters in Brussels and in the corridors of Washington.*
Since 2008,when it invaded and annexed 20% of the Republic of Georgia's territory,Russia has been bolstering its missile,naval infantry and artillery brigades.It has increased troop numbers in Belarus and Armenia.Indeed,in October 2016,Russia assigned two Buyan-class corvettes armed with nuclear-capable Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO code name Sizzler) to its Baltic Fleet,and has also deployed the Bastion system to Syria.Russia as well declined to withdraw its troops from Moldova;annexed Crimea from Ukraine;and fomented conflict in Eastern Ukraine.*
The Russian buildup of radars on the Baltic coastline,as well as the plethora of missile systems in addition to the expanded forces noted above,points to an anti-access/area denial strategy on Moscow's part toward NATO,seeking to hinder NATO's activity in the region and crimp any attempt at reinforcement of the Baltic states during a crisis.*
Small wonder that,in light of Moscow's pressure,Norway is now accepting US Marine Corps rotations on its previously off-limits territory;while NATO partners Finland and Sweden are steadier participants in NATO exercises,raising the topic of their possible membership in the Alliance more than ever before.

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