Russia moves missiles to European border

Moscow has positioned a number of its nuclear-capable, long-range missiles to areas near the Russian-European border, in a show of force against a planned U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe. 

Russian forces have been quietly moving more than a dozen long-range missile systems to locations near Poland, Lithuania and several other Baltic nations, over the past several months, according to Agence France-Presse

ADVERTISEMENT
Some of those nuclear missile batteries, known as the Iskander missile system, have been sent to Russia's "Western Military District," comprised of former Soviet satellite states that have since joined the European Union. 

"Iskander operational-tactical missile systems have indeed been commissioned by the Western Military District's missile and artillery forces," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told local media outlets. 

But more than half of the Iskander missiles have been stationed in Kaliningrad, the Russian territory that abuts Poland along the Baltic Sea, according to AFP. 

Poland and Romania are the first of several sites the Obama White House is eying for a series of sea and land-based ballistic missile interceptors for Eastern Europe. 

That said, advanced versions of the Iskander missile have an operational range of over 300 miles, long enough to possibly target and take out pieces of the U.S. missile shield located near Russia's border with Europe. 

The missile deployment is only the latest example of the simmering tensions between Moscow and Washington over the American missile shield. 

The Obama administration plans to have the massive missile defense network in place by 2020. 

But Russia has opposed the shield since its inception, arguing the weapons designed to counter the Iranian threat could easily be used to take out Russian-operated missile systems stationed in the region.

Most recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued the tentative deal between the U.S. and Tehran on Iran's nuclear enrichment program has negated the need for the missile shield. 

“If the agreement on Iran is implemented, the reason named as a necessity to establish a missile defense system in Europe will drop away,” he said in November. 

The U.S. has agreed to lift some sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country temporarily freezing its nuclear program and submitting to inspections, according to the terms of the six-month deal.