The Russian Armed Forces has announced the deployment of strategic bombers to Crimea and mobile theatre ballistic missiles to Kalinigrad. The deployments are part of a military readiness exercise throughout Russia.
In fact, Russian Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers will be stationed in Crimea while some 9K720 Iskander mobile theatre ballistic missile systems will be moved to the Kalinigrad Oblast.
According to Wikipedia, the Iskander missiles can be used against targets such as:
- hostile fire weapons (missile systems, multiple launch rocket systems, long-range artillery pieces)
- air and missile defense weapons, aerodrome
- fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft at airfields
- command posts and communications nodes
- troops in concentration areas
- critical civilian infrastructure facilities
It can also hit strongly protected targets (bunkers) and has a range of 500 km. The Russian Western Military district has many Iskander in their inventory.
The Kalinigrad Oblast borders both Poland and Lithuania, two NATO countries. As a matter of fact, Lithuania is currently considering reintroducing the draft to counter Russia’s aggressive stance on the Baltic States. Poland has also been the host of many multinational exercises. Canada currently has a permanent presence in Poland, mainly to reassure the Eastern European NATO allies.
The deployment of Iskander missiles could easily be employed as a pre-emptive strike weapon–giving an early advantage to Russia. Adding to that, the Voronezh radar installation in Kalinigrad is vital for Russia’s early warning system.
As for the strategic bombers, Russia’s Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 mission will most likely conduct patrols over the Black Sea while probing the Italian, Spanish and French airspace. There is also a probability of seeing them flying around Turkey and Georgia, especially since Russia is about to sign an “alliance and integration” treaty with South Ossetia.
Aside from these two strategic deployments, Russia has ordered the Arctic command’s Northern Fleet to high alert for snap drills. With Norway currently undergoing its largest military exercises in the Arctic since the 1960s, Russia’s Northern Fleet snap drills are most likely aimed at doing a show of force against Norway in the region.
Russia has been very active conducting military exercises lately. Due to the current oil prices, the Russian government might be ordering these deployments to justify the current defence budget. Russia’s military budget will be increased by more than 44% between 2013 and 2016. There is also a possibility that Russia is doing a “show of force” to send a strong message to the international community; that Russia will not stay silent anymore and it wants to be called a superpower once again.
One thing is clear, Russia wants to regain the influence it had before the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia’s geopolitical issues are once again on top of NATO’s priorities.