Russia has the right to protect itself against NATO’s eastward expansion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, commenting on the deployment of Russian ballistic missiles in the Kaliningrad Region. He called the Western alliance an “aggressive bloc”.
“Russia is doing all that is necessary to protect itself against the backdrop of NATO’s expansion toward its borders. NATO is indeed an aggressive bloc, that is why Russia is doing everything that is necessary,” Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, as cited by Interfax.
“Russia has all the sovereign rights to take the necessary measures across all the territory of the Russian Federation,” the spokesman added.
He was asked to comment on the deployment of Russian missile complexes to the Kaliningrad Region exclave – Russia’s westernmost point. Peskov declined to say whether the missile systems had already been deployed to the region and whether they would be deployed there permanently.
However, on November 19 the press service of Russia’s Baltic Fleet reported that the missile fleet compounds “were preparing the infrastructure and re-scheduling for new onshore and operational-tactical missile systems.” The press service did not specify what type of systems it was referring to.
On Monday, Russian Senator Viktor Ozerov, chair of the upper house Defense and Security Committee, said Russia will be forced to deploy ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, responding to the threat posed by US cruise missiles recently sent to Poland and Romania.
“One of the reasons why Russia opposed the deployment of the American ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system in Europe was the concern that this infrastructure may be quickly converted to deploy strike systems, in particular land-based cruise missiles. These concerns are being confirmed today,” Ozerov said.
“In response to that we will be forced to beef up our air and space defense system in that direction, [and to] deploy additional forces to defend our military facilities and command centers. This includes the deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad, and the formation of new units in the Western and Southern military districts,” he told RIA Novosti.
The S-400 is a long-range anti-missile system used to protect strategic sites such as large cities or ICBM silos from airstrikes. The Iskander is a tactical missile system capable of firing either ballistic or cruise missiles, including those carrying nuclear warheads.
Russia has long been accused by the US and NATO of allegedly posing a threat to European security with its military build-up, including in the Baltic region. Russia, however, has stood its ground, maintaining that the build-up is a response to constant NATO drills along Russian borders, which it views as a threat.
In a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday, NATO berated Russia, claiming it “does not help to lower tensions or restore predictability to our relations,” and calling for more transparency in military activities “to avoid incidents and the risk of misunderstandings.”