November 3, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6663

The Iskander-M Tactical Missile Systems In Kaliningrad - An Update

November 3, 2016
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6663

Russia has deployed Iskander-M tactical missile systems in the Kaliningrad region. The move sparked tension in the Baltic States. On October 8, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: "By the way, nobody made a big secret out of the transportation of the system onboard the freighter Ambal. I'll say more - one Iskander system was deliberately exposed prior to the shipment to an American intelligence satellite, which was on its trajectory above [the region] - that was made in order to clarify [i.e.check out] certain parameters of this satellite." He also added that the Russian side did not have long to wait since the US partners in their "exposure impulse" have confirmed everything that the Russians needed.

Konashenkov continued: "The Iskander ballistic missile system is mobile, as during the training process missile force units improve their skills year-round [which involves] covering major distances across Russian territory by various means: by air, by sea and by their own movement."[1]


Russian President Vladimir Putin focusing on Kaliningrad (Source:, August 28, 2016)

The deputy head of the Federation Council's Defense Committee, Frantz Klintsevich, said that other states "should not fear" the move. He also stressed that the deployment is "part of the drill" since Russia "is not at war" with anyone. Klintsevich said: "They [Iskander] do not bear any threat, they are designed to ensure the security of our territory in the event of any real threat. Nothing else."[2]

Colonel-General (ret) Vladimir Shamanov, chair of the lower house Duma Defense and Security Committee, explained: "Those missiles will be, first and foremost, aimed at those objects, which disrupt the balance [of power in Europe] and which are or will be deployed in the framework of the (American) missile defense program." He then lauded the system for its extraordinary accuracy.[3]


Sergey Grinyaev, CEO "Center for Strategic Assessment and Forecast", explained: "In the recent weeks we witness the rising tensions in the international situation due to the divergent paths [taken by] the US and Russia regarding Syria. This tension in the Middle East is being projected to the Baltic region. The US is stimulating military confrontation on Russia's western borders - in Poland, and in the Baltic republics. One way of countering this pressure is to deploy Iskander operational and tactical rocket complexes in the Kaliningrad region". [4] The same article in Argomenti I Fakti claimed that Russian experts believed that the presence of the Iskanders did not clash with any international agreement..

This last point was disputed by Pavel Felgengauer, who is considered one of Russia's most serious military experts. According to Felgengauer, since the Iskander -M launching platform can be used not only for ballistic missiles, but also for cruise ones (Kaliber -NK naval missiles, which have been adapted for the ground launching platform and have a range of 2500 km.  He agrees with the Americans that this is an infringement of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF, which prohibits procurement and deployment of missiles with a range surpassing 500 km. Moscow coyly claims that their range is only 500 km. and therefore conform to the agreement but their range is four fold longer. The Russians reply that the American ABM system in Romania also surpasses 2000 km. This creates a serious threat that the INF treaty will disintegrate.[5] According to Felgengauer, the rhetoric employed by the Russian General Staff, which implies that the American missile defense system in Europe endangers Russia could provoke a denunciation of the INF (Putin back in 2007 had called it a bad agreement). Then we will be back to the 1980s when both sides deployed intermediate range ballistic missiles in Europe (the so called European Missile Crisis)..

Felgengauer claimed that the general staff and the defense ministry were entirely responsible for the crisis: "It's obvious that they (the General Staff) need the rising tensions with the US. The main enemy though is not the US or Syria, it's our own ministry of finance. Currently, the Russian budget is shrinking and the main goal of the general staff and the ministry of defense is to keep the budgeting for the rearmament program intact [the 2020 rearmament program presumes that the Russian army will have 70-90 % of its modern weapons requirements by 2020]. The gap between the ministry of defense and the ministry of finance is critical now - the defense ministry is demanding 22 trillion rubles while the ministry of finance is prepared to give 12 trillion rubles. To overcome that gap [the defense ministry] needs to heighten tensions with the US, including potential military clashes."[6]


[1], October 8, 2016.

[2], October 8, 2016.

[3], October 15, 2016.

[4], October 19, 2016.

[5] During the Valdai International Discussion Club's 13th annual meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "Here's what we have: the naive former Russian leadership went ahead and eliminated intermediate-range land-based missiles. The Americans eliminated their Pershing missiles, while we scrapped the SS-20 missiles. There was a tragic event associated with this when the chief designer of these systems committed suicide believing that it was a betrayal of national interests and unilateral disarmament.

"Why unilateral? Because under that treaty we eliminated our ground complex, but the treaty did not include medium-range sea- and air-based missiles. Air- and sea-based missiles were not affected by it. The Soviet Union simply did not have them, while the United States kept them in service.

"What we ultimately got was a clear imbalance: the United States has kept its medium-range missiles. It does not matter whether they are based at sea, in the air, or on land; however, the Soviet Union was simply left without this type of weapons. Almost all of our neighbors make such weapons, including the countries to the east of our borders, and Middle Eastern countries as well, whereas none of the countries sharing borders with the United States, neither Canada nor Mexico, manufacture such weapons. So, for us it is a special test, but nevertheless we believe it is necessary to honor this treaty. All the more so since, as you may be aware, we now also have medium-range sea- and air-based missiles.", October 27, 2016.

[6], October 20, 2016.

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