Russia has taunted Europe with nuclear-capable missiles before -- but this time is different

In recent years, Russia has made a habit of nuclear saber-rattling at its neighbours, but lately Moscow has taken a decidedly more menacing tone.

NATO states in the Baltics recently expressed their agitation with Russia for placing Iskander nuclear-capable missiles in the enclave of Kaliningrad, that borders Poland. While this isn’t the first time Russia has deployed the destabilizing missiles to Europe, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, a blog on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, says this time is different.

Through a “crowdsourcing experiment” on, Lewis and his colleagues have been examining satellite imagery of Kaliningrad. According to Lewis, the results are disturbing.

Instead of a routine deployment with routine drills, Lewis sees the Russians “knocking buildings down like crazy and building new buildings,” in what he considers an attempt to permanently house the nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.

“I think construction at the missile base is consistent with permanent deployment. We found the missile base using Russian social media and found the training area. Every time there are reports that there’s an exercise we go take a look at the missile base,” said Lewis of his methodology.

The military bases in Kaliningrad seem to be undergoing a change to accommodate the missiles and vehicles that accompany them.

The Russians are “probably not there yet, but absolutely making changes consistent with the imminent deployment of the Iskanders,” said Lewis.

“From Kaliningrad, a couple hundred kilometer range ground launched cruise missile can really get into Western Europe,” said Lewis.

And because Kaliningrad belongs to Russia, there is little the international community can do to stop Russia from placing its missiles there.

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