Words Fly Over Russian Missiles on Baltic
Rahvusvahelised uudised 26 Nov 2016  EWR
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NATO, Moscow resume long-running spat over whether the military alliance is aggressive or not.
tol.org 23 November 2016
Russia’s plans to deploy advanced missiles in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad brought more recriminations from Washington and NATO this week.

NATO accused Russia of “aggressive military posturing” on Tuesday, while Vladimir Putin fired back that Russia was simply responding to NATO aggression.

“NATO is a defensive alliance, it’s always been a defensive alliance, it will remain a defensive alliance,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby (pictured) told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s no reason why Russia should view NATO in any way, shape, or form as a threat,” he said.

Reuters quoted Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defense committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, as saying Monday that Moscow will deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems and S-400 surface-to-air missiles in Kaliningrad.

The Kremlin has said it periodically sends Iskanders to the territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania as part of routine drills. It has not explicitly linked these drills to NATO’s recent build-up in Eastern Europe, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, 4,000 troops from 11 countries in the Western alliance kicked off exercises in Lithuania, described by Russian state-funded broadcaster RT as the largest in the country to date.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Tuesday that moving the missiles to Kaliningrad was a logical response to Western hostility, the Guardian reports.

“Russia is doing everything necessary to ensure its security in the face of expansion by NATO toward its borders,” Peskov said. “The alliance really is an aggressive bloc, therefore Russia must do everything it can, and in this case it has the sovereign right to take necessary measures across its whole territory.”

These developments come as the world anxiously waits to see what a Donald Trump presidency could mean for Washington’s ties to its allies and Russia.

Trump said in an interview with The New York Times during his election campaign that he would be willing to tell NATO allies, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself” if he felt they did not contribute their fair share of the alliance’s budget.

On Tuesday the European Parliament backed a plan to deepen defense coordination among member states and reduce the reliance on Washington, partially in response to Trump’s threats that he might scale back protection of NATO allies, Reuters reports.

“Our union is not equipped to face overwhelming defense challenges,” said parliamentarian Urmas Paet, a former foreign minister of Estonia who drafted the non-binding resolution. “Europe continues to rely heavily on NATO capabilities and on U.S. solidarity.”

• The Latvian military has invited Russian officials to discuss security along the countries’ shared border, including confidence-building measures, the Baltic Course reports.

• Russian fears of NATO’s growing presence just beyond its borders could be heightened by Polish plans to establish a large, new defense force meant, as the Polish defense minister said, to deter Russian attacks, Politico reports. Critics fear the force could become the armed wing of the conservative ruling Law and Justice Party.

• Iskander-M missiles are sophisticated, nuclear-capable weapons with a range of over 500 kilometers (310 miles), an Estonian defense expert told the Guardian.

(Compiled by Kaitlyn Budrow)
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