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Conflicting reports of Russian missiles on Poland's doorstep

23rd December 2013
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Russian authorities confirm then deny reports that Moscow has deployed short-range missiles near Poland's border

German tabloid daily Bild reported last week that Russia has moved several of their short-range mobile Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad oblast, placing them within striking distance of Poland and Lithuania. 

The missiles are fully mobile and can be deployed anywhere in Russia
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Iskander operational-tactical missile systems have indeed been commissioned,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.

His words however were contradicted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who a few days later claimed that “Moscow will place Iskanders in the Kaliningrad oblast as soon as the [NATO] missile shield is operational. Since it’s not yet [operational], the missiles are also not there yet,” he said.

Some elements of the planned NATO missile shield are to be stationed in Poland. Iskander missiles have a range of 500 kilometers, meaning that if they were stationed in Kaliningrad they could reach the interceptor missiles that are due to be sited in Poland. Iskander missiles can also carry nuclear warheads.

Russia’s neighbors, including Poland, were alarmed by the reports. “Plans to deploy Iskander-M missiles in the Kaliningrad oblast are disturbing and Poland has said so many times,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “it is a problem for the whole of NATO and one should expect potential consultations and actions within NATO and EU forums.”

Weapons of mass propaganda

Some, however, wonder what all the fuss is about. Stanisław Koziej, head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, told Gazeta Wyborcza that the reports were only a PR tactic without any real threat.

Russians want to scare ordinary Poles and Germans into pressuring their politicians not to build the US missile shield, as well as NATO’s missile defense program,” he said. He added that the Iskanders can be easily moved, meaning that if Moscow really wanted to strike the NATO installations, it could place them in Kaliningrad within a matter of hours.

But the timing of the reports, coming after Russia has flexed its muscles in Ukraine, seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

Jacek Ciesnowski

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