As cyber-warfare against Finland intensifies and it was announced that some 330 US marines would be stationed in central Norway from January 2017 onward – Russia is reportedly deploying two Kalibr-cruise missle ships to the Baltic Sea. In this case, Finland and Sweden would be most threatened as they cannot rely on NATO’s missile defense. As for the Iskander deployment to Kaliningrad it mainly had been Poland that reacted: One the one hand in stating it had no means to counter a possible Iskander-attack on its own, on the other hand the former commander of Poland’s special forces announced recently that Russia might attack in the next few months.
The Lithuanian National Security Threat Assessment (2016) outlines some interesting points in regard to recent developments:
“What Russia aims to do is not so much rivalling the technical development of adversaries as gaining a military advantage by adjusting the capabilities and operational planning to action against specific adversaries in specific strategic directions seizing on their weaknesses and applying a large set of non-military measures alongside military action. Russia’s key objective is to create armed forces capable of particularly rapid deployment in the direction of the conflict thus minimising, as much as possible, the scope for early warning about Russia’s readiness for military conflict. Russia seeks to make its military response time significantly shorter than that of NATO. It is already today that Russia would be able to generate and redeploy, within 24–48 hours, the capabilities that would be sufficient to start combat operations against the Baltic States. In the specific directions of the possible military conflict with NATO (regions of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Barents Sea), Russia aims to create and develop a set of military measures that are to isolate the region of conflict in case of a crisis or war and maximally limit access and operation of adversarial forces in the region. According to the estimation of Russia, the so-called A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) capabilities should affect NATO’s decision-making and promote a softer reaction against the aggressive actions of Russia when a crisis arises.
In case of an armed conflict, A2/AD capabilities are to help Russia to isolate the area of operations, localise the conflict and control its escalation avoiding the large-scale redeployment of NATO’s additional forces and broad involvement of the Alliance in the conflict. The naval capabilities under development have to prevent hostile naval forces from accessing and dominating in the conflict region and have to disrupt their actions. As far as the development of the land component capabilities is concerned, it should be noted that possible deployment of operational-tactical ballistic missile systems Iskander in Kaliningrad Oblast, which is often discussed in the public domain, may pose a potentially greater danger to Lithuania because they may be used for hindering the actions of NATO’s allied forces in the region. There is no need to use these systems just for destroying any target within the territory of Lithuania. Moreover, Russia greatly focuses on the development of electronic warfare capabilities in the regions of potential conflicts.
According to Russia’s assessment, the effective capabilities developed in a targeted manner, even though inferior to NATO’s general combat potential, would maximally hamper NATO’s actions in the region of conflict and, first and foremost, require a strong political will from members of the Alliance to take on large combat losses, which would be inevitable in the escalating conflict. This could help Russia gain a strategic advantage in a particular region (more).