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Latvian ambassador: Russian missiles in Kaliningrad are there to stay

Māris Riekstiņš/flickr.com/Ministery of Foreign Affairs.
If proof is found that Iskander missiles deployed in Kaliningrad are there to stay, it could be interpreted as a stop towards destabilization of the situation, said Latvian ambassador in Russia Māris Riekstiņš in an interview to Rīta panorama programme.

He says that Russia has made no announcements about deployment of missiles. Previously it was mentioned that Russia may consider increasing its defensive capabilities in the Baltic region in response to increasing presence of NATO forces there and in Poland.

The ambassador admits that deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Oblast is nothing new – this had happened once before in the past. At the same time, it is important to determine if this time they are there to stay. If it turns out Iskander is here to stay, NATO member states will have to re-assess the situation and consider possible ways to respond. «This is another argument in favour of expanding military presence,» said the ambassador.

Versions have been voiced that such behaviour from Russia makes it harder for NATO forces to arrive in the Baltic region. Riekstiņš considers such versions as «simplified interpretations». He said NATO has different ways to provide assistance to any of its member states in the event of a crisis.

Residents have to understand that, speaking of theoretical threats, Latvia is already within range of other Russian missile platforms, said the ambassador.

«I am not in the position to say Latvia is under a great deal of direct military threats from Russia. I believe NATO defensive capabilities and deterrence policy have worked successfully over the course of the years and will continue working in the future. I think it would be madness for any non-NATO country to challenge safety and territorial integrity of NATO member states,» said the ambassador.

Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis told 900 seconds programme that such behaviour from Russia is nothing new, because Russian authorities had previously allowed for this deployment. «I don’t see any need for immediate retaliation or if there is any reason to,» he said.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Defence Minister Raimunds Karoblis have both announced that Iskander missile platforms are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and they are in Kaliningrad are there to stay.

As noted by the defence minister, Russia had deployed Iskander missile platforms in Kaliningrad for the duration of military exercises. However, he added that this time the situation is different – this is permanent deployment with all the necessary infrastructure.

Lithuanian intelligence services report that deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad is a threat primarily because their presence can potentially delay activities in NATO forces in the region. Using those missiles to attack targets in Lithuania is not necessary, because Russia’s existing military potential is enough for that.

Latvian Defence Ministry’s Military Public Relations Department’s Director Kaspars Galkins mentioned that Russia’s plans regarding deployment of Iskander in Kaliningrad prove that Latvia and its NATO allies have to continue investing in modern anti-air defences.


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