Russia intends to increase its air and missile defense in the Baltic Region, where strikes could reach major European cities, in response to the U.S. and NATO’s new missile defense system deployed earlier this year, a top Russian lawmaker said Monday.
"To counter these threats, we will be forced to strengthen our air and missile defenses in the western vector and to deploy additional means to defend the relevant command-and-control infrastructure," Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, told RIA News agency in an interview, according to Reuters.
Ozerov, who heads the top defense committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said the military will roll out its S-400 air missile defense system and ballistic Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave to strengthen its western borders.
Kaliningrad, which was annexed by the then-Soviet Union from Germany following World War II, sits between Lithuania and Poland in the southeast of the Baltic Sea, a key military stronghold that would allow the missiles to reach major European cities.
With a 300-mile range, the S-400 is capable of hitting targets from both short and long distances, putting cities like Berlin, as well as Poland and Sweden in danger if fired.
Though Russia and the US have seen diplomatic relations erode over the last year for various reasons – the Syrian civil war and alleged meddling by Russia in this month’s U.S. presidential election – the fresh deployment of air and missile defense systems is technically a delayed response considering the U.S. and NATO launched the Aegis ashore system in May.
That system was announced almost a decade ago, and the U.S. has said it's strictly been installed to protect itself and allies from countries like Iran, not Russia. Developed by contractor Lockheed Martin, the Aegis system, under NATO’s command and capable of simultaneously hitting targets on land, at sea and other ships, is located in Deveselu, Romania. Construction began on another facility in Poland a day after the Romanian installation was announced.