16 December 2013, 21:21

Lithuania seeks NATO advice after Russia deploys Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad

Lithuania seeks NATO advice after Russia deploys Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad

According to Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas, his country is in consultations with neighbors and NATO about how it reacts to the deployment of Iskander tactical ballistic missiles in the Russian region of Kaliningrad. Speaking in Vilnius Monday, he accused Russia of stepping up military preparations near its western border.

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian defense officials confirmed reports that Russia has started positioning Iskander missiles in its Western Military District.

The Iskander is a truck-based theater ballistic missile system with a range of 400 kilometers, which translates into Berlin as its furthest western target if its missiles are fired from Kaliningrad. The Iskander’s warheads descend at supersonic speeds, which enables them to penetrate enemy missile defenses.

US nervous about Russian latest ICBM mobile systems

Moscow's planned enlargement of its nuclear arsenals has triggered a jittery reaction from the US expert community. The US experts claimed that Russia is reviving its military might, although President Vladimir Putin only mentioned a couple of dozen new-generation missiles in a recent statement.

Vladimir Putin told a conference on reinforcing Russia's Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN) late last month that two RVSN regiments would get the sophisticated RS-24 Yars mobile ICBMs before the end of the year. The President further said that 22 such system would pass into service next year. Putin actually did not say the ICBMs would be the Yars systems, but it took experts little time to figure out that what he meant were both mobile and silo-based Yars ballistic missiles. The Russian leader also said that the new missiles would be able to penetrate any missile shield.

But then, it's fair to say that the Russian leader's statement hardly caught the western expert community unawares, since the renovation and modernization of the Russian armed forces, in general, and their military component, in particular, were predicted in a host of commentaries. For instance, The Daily Beast US website is bending over backwards to intimidate its readers by the reviving "Soviet threat" that will now emanate from Russia. The article is a mind-boggling mix of the military reform, the Zapad-2013 Russian-Belarusian military exercises, Poland's and the Baltic countries' concern about the drills, the ban on pro-paedophile propaganda in Russia, Russia's economic problems and the ongoing political broil in Ukraine. Yet, the hodge-podge in question is evidence of the West's traditionally hysteric reaction to whatever effort Russia may make.

The National Interest US conservative magazine has called for regarding the renovation and modernization of Russian strategic missile forces as a troubling sign of another round of strategic competition between Moscow and Washington. The magazine gives the names of all the new missile systems of the Russian nuclear triad, obviously to frighten its readers, and then warns them nervously that the US should by no means fall behind Moscow's programme to upgrade Russian ballistic missiles.

So, what problem do US analysts see in the Russian nuclear force programme? The RS-24 Yars system is a modified Topol-M ICBM. According to a Retired Lieutenant-General, vice president of the Russian Centre for Political Studies (PIR Centre), Yevgeni Buzhinski, the new ICBM has 9 MIRV warheads and can have four to six nuclear warheads with a yield of 150 kilotons to 300 kilotons. One of the new important things about Yars is that the missile is equipped with a reentry warhead maneuvering units with individual targeting, has superior maneuverability and as a consequence, increased survival rating. This is what makes it difficult for the enemy to detect and intercept Yars.

Obviously, it's the missile payload that is seen as a threat to the missile shield that the US is deploying to Europe, says a member of the Public Council of the Military-Industrial Commission under the Russian Government, Mikhail Khodaryonok, and elaborates.

"The thing is that when a missile defence system intercepts and destroys enemy ICBMs, it operates on the idea of a rectilinear and even target motion. Otherwise, the defence system is unable to lock onto the target. If, for example, the ballistic missile warhead starts manoeuvring violently and unpredictably during the terminal phase of the flight, the antimissile missile fired will most certainly miss the oncoming warhead".

On the number of new systems, Yevgeni Buzhinski said that it is sufficient, despite the fact that each ICBM has the minimum number of warheads.

"We're keeping within the framework of the latest START treaty; actually we have fewer warheads than authorized by the treaty. So, we are just updating the land force of our strategic triad. The US is deploying a missile shield, which prompts the need for an asymmetrical response to the moves in question, since these moves are upsetting the strategic balance, while nuclear deterrence is still alive, both in the US and Russia".

Besides, the service life of Soviet-made single warhead missiles that are growing obsolete is expiring, so they should either be heavily upgraded, or replaced, the expert says.

But then, Washington may grow truly concerned and disappointed about the revival of Russian nuclear might, for the United States has not even tried to conceal the fact that it did hope until recently for a final self-destruction of the Russian armed forces. The Barack Obama-declared policy on building a bright nuclear-free future for the world was discredited after Moscow remained indifferent in summer this year to the unfavourable US proposal to conclude another treaty to lower ceilings on the number of nuclear warheads. In any event, the Americans never thought of giving up plans to upgrade their own nuclear triad. But the US programme to that end will start, - for a number of reasons, - later than the Russian one, for Moscow's western partners did not expect Russia to launch its own programme all at once and so fast.

Given the existing military and political world order, Russia's strategic nuclear forces are the only guarantee of Russia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, since the US, according to Yevgeni Buzhinski, has outpaced Russia in developing high-precision conventional weapons and drones. The US has, besides, been making great strides in arming its ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, which keeps Moscow on tenterhooks. So, prominent military experts are at one that nuclear containment remains the most effective peace guarantor on a global scale to this day. A world without nuclear weapons is still, unfortunately, a remote prospect.

Voice of Russia, RIA-Novosti

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