Moscow continues to rattle its saber against the West, deploying more missiles to Kaliningrad in what it claims is a retaliatory measure against NATO deployments. Reuters:
Moscow will deploy S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems in the exclave of Kaliningrad in retaliation for NATO deployments, a senior pro-Kremlin lawmaker was quoted as saying on Monday.
Russia has previously said it periodically sends Iskanders to Kaliningrad, but until now it has said these were routine drills. Moscow has not linked the moves explicitly with what it says is a NATO military build-up on Russia’s western borders. […]
Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, said in remarks reported by RIA news agency that Russia was forced to react to the planned U.S. missile shield in eastern Europe.
Russia’s latest moves appeared to be carefully synced with messaging in the Russian media. The announcement about the missile deployments came hours before the Russian television premiere of a new Oliver Stone documentary, in which Putin warns that Russia could strike NATO targets if it perceives a threat. The Washington Post notes Putin’s most relevant quotes from the film, which were circulated by the Russian media ahead of its airing:
“We must take countermeasures, that is strike with our missile systems the targets that, in our opinion, begin to threaten us,” Putin said in an interview with American filmmaker Oliver Stone for a documentary broadcast Monday. […]
“And what are we supposed to do? We are forced to take counter measures, that is, to aim our missile systems at those facilities which we think pose a threat to us,” he stressed. “The situation is heating up.”
Anticipating a muted Western response, Putin continues to press his luck with escalatory moves against NATO, even as he makes the alliance the scapegoat for his domestic audience. Predictably, the United States has very little to say in response. In typically anodyne language, State Department spokesman John Kirby “[called] on Russia to refrain from words or deeds that are inconsistent with the goal of security and stability.”
Expect Russia to continue pressing its advantage in the waning days of the Obama presidency. Putin has every interest to do all he can to consolidate his gains in Ukraine, Syria, and Europe in the next two months, just in time for a more NATO-skeptic administration to take over the White House in January.