US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently stated that the US is ready to bolster air defense systems in the Baltic Region, to defend against Russia.
Anonymous sources further indicated that the US might temporarily deploy Patriot systems in the Baltic for NATO exercises. Mattis refused to comment on whether the deployment would be permanent.
Let us find out more on escalating tensions in Europe.
MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air-missile system designed by Raytheon. It is designed to intercept aircrafts, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles. It is the US Army's primary anti ballistic missile system and has been used both in the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars.
Mattis notes that, "the reason for the deployment is Russia's lack of respect for International law."
Speaking on Russian missile deployment in Kaliningrad, Mattis noted, "any Russian combat power build up in an area where they know, and we all know, they are not threatened by anything that we are doing ... is simply destabilizing".
He further noted that newer capabilities are not offensive.
Mattis's statement has been made in the context of Baltic states increasing fear of Russian aggression.
Last year, Russia deployed nuclear capable SS 26 Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordering Lithuania and Poland, irking NATO countries.
Russia is further preparing to conduct its four yearly Exercise Zapad in September and has started moving troops in mass numbers close to the Baltic.
Exercise Zapad is where Russia typically tests out its new military hardware. There have been discussions in the past on structuring the exercise around nuclear attack scenarios.
Zapad, 2017 is scheduled to be conducted on 14-20 September and would include joint drills involving Russian and Belarusian forces.
It would further cover areas including Finland, Norway, Belarus and Kaliningrad.
NATO allies including the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Poland fear a repeat of Russian invasion against Georgia and Ukraine. They fear that Russia might try to strike them under the guise of Zapad.
Russia has also recently started conducting a number of snap exercises around offensive anti-Western scenarios.
NATO also fears that the military build up in Belarus would become permanent.
While NATO's fears against Russian aggression are not without substance, it somehow appears to be drawn from anti-Soviet policy prescriptions from the Cold War era and is irrelevant to that extent.
Moreover, military build up in Europe is not solely attributed to Russia, US along with its NATO allies has been increasing defense budgets and deployments. Hence, Russia's posture is defensive in this context.