U.S. officials have expressed their "concern" with the deployment of tactical missile complex Iskander-M in the Kaliningrad enclave, which, in their opinion, may destabilize the situation in the region. However, Russia has not officially confirmed the information. We can only guess why German newspaper Bild has leaked the information.
On Sunday, German newspaper Bild, citing satellite imagery, said that Moscow has placed missile complexes Iskander-M in Kaliningrad, and now their quantity has reached a two-digit number. The newspaper reported that the entire territory of Poland and Berlin were in the missiles range. Reactions followed on Monday, first from the Baltic countries and Poland. "The new modernization in Kaliningrad, near the border with the Baltic countries and NATO, is causing additional concern and attention. Therefore, we will monitor the situation," said the Minister of National Defense of Lithuania Juozas Olekas. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the deployment of missiles a "disturbing" factor.
Later Marie Harf, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, urged Moscow not to make steps to destabilize the region. The intended sensation was not a revelation for Chuck Hagel who is on an official visit to Moscow. The representative of the United States delegation said that the issue was not on the agenda for the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. Indeed, the U.S. military are well aware of the cause for the Russian Federation's concern. The U.S. missile defense in Europe is part of the U.S. missile defense system designed to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the fourth phase of modernization (after 2021) that may be directed at the United States in the event of a retaliatory nuclear strike.
Back in 2010, the Americans refused to provide a written legal guarantee that their missile defense in Europe would not be directed against Russia. In 2011, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia would install Iskander-M system in the Kaliningrad Region and Krasnodar Territory "to ensure the elimination of the European component of the U.S. missile defense system." This was an asymmetrical response of the Russian Federation to the deployment of the American missile defense system in Europe.
However, in March of this year, Deputy Secretary of Defense James Miller announced that due to funding cuts for military programs the U.S. would have to abandon the 4th phase of the deployment of the European missile defense system threatening Russia's security. Nevertheless, Russia has allegedly deployed Iskander systems. Suppose that this is the case. Is it an adequate response?
First, Russia has not confirmed the deployment of missiles in Kaliningrad region, but only in the Western Military District (WMD), told Pravda.Ru Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of National Defense. "Tactical missile complex Iskander is indeed available to the artillery and rocket forces of the WMD. The specific areas of dislocation of Iskander missile battalions on the territory of the WMD do not contradict to any international agreements or arrangements," RIA Novosti quoted the head of the press service of the Defense Ministry and Information Major General Igor Konashenkov. That is, this weapon is not prohibited by any international norms, and even has an export passport.
"Perhaps, it was a leak by Bild newspaper," said Igor Korotchenko. "Secondly, missiles upgrade goes as planned, and Sergei Shoigu said that by 2018 all air defense systems will be equipped with Iskander. "And, third, cancellation of the fourth stage of the missile defense system is nothing but words. The Americans refuse to sign any legal documents regarding the European missile defense. We have no reason to trust their words. Therefore, regardless of what they say, we will pursue the modernization of the missile units and replace the outdated systems with Iskander. Korotchenko believes that the article in Bild is of provocative nature and dedicated to the events around Ukraine, while Russia is simply implementing the planned upgrade of its missile forces.
The fact that the words of the Americans should be treated with great skepticism was confirmed by the statement made by Hagel during a press conference with Shoigu. He said that the U.S. and its allies would continue implementing their plans to deploy missile defense system in Europe, despite the fact that the Iranian nuclear issue was resolved within the framework of 5 + 1 meeting in Geneva. However, earlier NATO has justified the European missile defense deployment precisely by the threat posed by Iran's medium-range missiles potentially capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The first stage of the European missile defense ended in 2011 by deployment of Aegis sea-based missile interceptors SM 3 (Block IA), and radar in Turkey. The completion of the second phase is expected in 2015. There are plans to place a more powerful modification of SM 3 interceptor (Block IB) in Deveselu, Romania. The third phase whose completion is planned for 2018 involves the development, testing and deployment of improved SM 3 (Block IIA). The interceptor missiles were to be located in Poland. The fourth stage (2020) suggested the creation of opportunities to intercept medium-range missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Kaliningrad region is closely monitored by Western intelligence due to its geographical location, and from time to time "potential threats" are detected out of desire to justify their actions, such as further development of the European defense. As for the presence of Iskander-M systems, the Kaliningrad (special) military district has all kinds of warheads for missiles required for combat missions, an anonymous source in the Russian Defense Ministry told Pravda.ru.