American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin may be on good terms, but that isn’t stopping Russia from building up its military presence on NATO’s borders. Recent images suggest that Russia is in the process of upgrading four of its military installations in Kaliningrad, a vital Baltic Sea port.
Kaliningrad is a detached enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Russian military equipment must be brought in by sea. As tensions between the European Union and Russia have risen in recent years, Kaliningrad has become all the more strategically important.
Russia stores nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, allowing Russia to more easily threaten Europe. It’s believed that Russia’s nuclear weapon storage site is receiving large-scale upgrades. In fact, as many as forty new bunkers are under construction, which will enable Russia to store even more nukes on site.
The nearby Chkalovsk Air Base is also being upgraded with a new railway and instrument landing system that will make landings easier during rough weather.
The Chernyakhovsk missile brigade is receiving new upgrades as well, following the February installation of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles. Back then, an American official called the installation of the missiles “the biggest move we’ve seen” in regards to the militarization of the Baltic. It’s believed that the Iskander missiles could strike Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden.
The moves come after President Trump cast doubt on the NATO alliance. Trump has frequently lambasted the European members of NATO for not spending enough on their domestic defense. Now, with Russia building up its forces on NATO’s borders, many European countries are finally beefing up their military capability.
This has benefited America’s military-industrial complex as American-made military weapons are being purchased in large quantities. In 2017, American arms exports to Europe reached $75 billion, easily surpassing the record- breaking $68 billion exported in 2012. With Russia continuing to build up its military assets in and around Europe, expect 2018 to be another boon year.