In another display of the escalating tensions between the US and Russia, the latter has deployed a battery of Iskander-M missile systems in its Kaliningrad outpost, bordering Poland and Lithuania.
The Iskander-M is a short-range ballistic missile system with an effective operational range of about 500km. Launched from a mobile platform, the weapon can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads. Some modified versions of the Iskander-M ordnance are rumoured to have an extended range of 700km, which would put them within striking distance of the German capital, Berlin.
Kaliningrad was once Konigsberg, the capital of the East Prussia province. It borders with Poland in its southern fringe and with Lithuania on the north. The enclave was recaptured from the Germans in 1945 and renamed ‘Kaliningrad’ the following year.
According to Russian authorities, the deployment is part of an ongoing ‘exercise’, but the move is only likely to exacerbate relations between Russia and the US already strained over the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts.
Last July, NATO announced that four fresh battallions would be deployed into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, to reinforce frontline border troops.
The deployment of the missile systems is likely to trigger a NATO-Russia Council meeting to discuss this, and other security issues.