LONDON - Russia’s deployment of nuclear-capable missiles its enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea is a "wake-up call" for the West of the current dangers, according to analysts. Germany warns the tensions between Moscow and the West are more dangerous than during the Cold War.
Russia’s Iskander missiles have a range of around 500 kilometers, and their deployment in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, has rattled the West.
“The dramatic reaction of the West about Iskander [missiles] now is that it is just a wake-up call, it is just a very clear message. It is that ice-cold bucket of water that says, ‘Wake up, you are not living in a safe world,” said Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military analyst at London’s Royal United Services Institute.
Moscow says the deployment is part of a regular military exercise.
During the Cold War larger missiles were deployed in what was then East Germany and Czechoslovakia. This time round, the strategy is psychological, says Sutyagin.
“The idea is to intimidate the West. Because Russia does not have any other tools to fight for its competitiveness in the international arena but psychology. Even the Russian military are comparatively weaker than NATO’s forces,” he said.
Russia caused further alarm with its deployment of an S-300 missile defense system to its naval base in Syria. Moscow’s Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov denied Russia is saber rattling.
He told reporters last week the missile battery is intended to ensure the safety of Russia’s Tartus naval base and its naval task force. He said it was unclear why the deployment of the S-300 caused such alarm among Moscow’s Western partners.
Worse than Cold War
But writing in the German Bild newspaper this week, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the tension between the West and Russia more dangerous than during the Cold War. Analyst Igor Sutyagin agrees.
“It is calculated unpredictability on the Russian side because that is part of psychology," he said. "You need to be mad, or present yourself as mad, as crazy, so everybody thinks that ‘this guy is really crazy so it is better to step away from his path.”
That unpredictability is played out in the skies of Europe. In April, Russian jets buzzed a U.S. warship in the Baltic Sea, one of scores of such incidents in recent months.
Last week, Finland scrambled its fighters to intercept Russian SU-27 jets that is says breached its airspace, a charge Moscow denied.
Non-aligned Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, and has fostered closer ties with NATO to counter Russian aggression. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work visited Helsinki last week to sign a deal on closer military training and information sharing.