- In recent weeks, flight tracking websites have spotted US reconnaissance flights near Kaliningrad.
- Kaliningrad is a Russian region on the Baltic Sea, separated by Lithuania from mainland Russia.
- An expert said that in 2018, Russia carried out a “major renovation” of a nuclear weapons site there.
The US military appears to be ramping up aerial surveillance of Russian territory in Europe, indicating fears that the Kremlin may decide to deploy or even use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as Russian leaders have warned.
On Wednesday, a US electronic reconnaissance plane, a Boeing RC-135, departed from a base in the UK and flew around Kaliningrad, a Russian region along the Baltic Sea – which does not share a land border with the mainland – which was annexed after the World War. The second, according to flight tracking website. This was at least the third trip in the last week.
Home to approximately 500,000 people, it is sometimes referred to as Russia.Unsinkable aircraft carrier“Because it is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, essentially providing the Kremlin with a forward operating base within NATO territory.
In 2018, Russia carried out “major renovation“An active nuclear weapons storage facility is in Kaliningrad, 50 kilometers from Poland, according to Hans Christensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists. He wrote at the time that the facility could function” as a forward storage site that would be supplied with warheads from central storage sites in the event of a crisis.”
In April, the Russian army announced that its Baltic Fleet in the Kaliningrad region had conducted “missile simulation exercises” using “operational and tactical Iskander missile complexes”. Iskander ballistic missiles can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.
The US Air Force’s European Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to the Military Fact Sheet, the RC-135V/W offers “real-time on-site intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination capabilities” with its crew—up to 30 people—capable of “detecting, identifying and geolocating signals throughout the electromagnetic field.”
Flights around Kaliningrad are somewhat unusual but not “pioneering or worrisome in and of themselves,” said Aram Shabanian, an expert in open source intelligence gathering at the New Lines Institute in Washington, DC. What they’re indicating, he told Insider, is that there is “a heightened interest in Russian military moves by high-level decision makers in the United States.”
“This comes at a time when we are, as far as I can be sure, at the closest point to nuclear war since 1983,” he added, referring to accident A Soviet early-warning radar system falsely reported an upcoming US nuclear attack.
Politico I mentioned this week That the United States and its allies are increasingly concerned, noting that Western intelligence agencies are “intensifying their efforts to detect any Russian military movements or communications that may indicate that Vladimir Putin has ordered the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” citing five current and past military operations. US officials.
Since ordering the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president has repeatedly hinted that he could use nuclear weapons, including in a speech on September 21 in which he announced a military project in which he warned that such threats “Not a hoax. “
“[I]“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said. Days later, Russia’s occupying forces held a sham referendum in eastern Ukraine to justify the territory’s annexation – broadening the definition of an attack on Russia to include Ukrainian forces retaking lands they had occupied since the start of the war.
Speaking to CNN, former CIA officer Robert Baer warned that Putin, who fears for the future of his regime after the major setbacks in Ukraine, may be tempted to do the previously unimaginable.
“The chances of him using nuclear weapons – at least tactical nuclear weapons – are increasing day by day,” Bayer said.
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