Iskander deployment doesn't change much, says ambassador to Russia

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Russia's deployment of Iskander rocket systems in Kaliningrad wouldn't change much by way of theoretical military threat to Latvia's security, seeing as Latvia is within reach of rockets stationed in St. Petersburg, said Latvia's ambassador to Russia Māris Riekstiņš.

In a February 6 interview with LTV's Rīta panorāma, the ambassador said there's currently no official or unofficial information about Russia permanently stationing rockets in Kaliningrad. 

Previously Russia has said it plans to increase its military presence in the Baltics as a response to buildup of NATO forces in the region. 

"Currently it's difficult to tell whether it's permanent this time, or just for a moment. Evidently some more research is needed," Riekstiņš said.

Nevertheless Riekstiņš ventured to say that, "If we speak about theoretical threat, we're currently within the radius of reach by similar Russian rockets."

"These are rockets stationed in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. So [the new deployment] wouldn't be anything now, from the standpoint of theoretical threat," he said.

However if it's confirmed that the rocket systems are stationed permanently, NATO will, according to Riekstiņš, have to consider taking response measures. According to Riekstiņš, Latvia has already stressed several times it will ask NATO to up its defense capabilities in the Baltic Sea region. 

He also says current NATO deterrence policies are working well.

"I think it would be utter insanity if any non-NATO country would try to challenge the safety and territorial integrity of any NATO member state," he said. 

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė and its defense minister Raimundas Karoblis said February 5 that Russia was stationing nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave and wants to leave the weapons there permanently.

Vladimir Shamanov, head of the State Duma Defense Committee, confirmed the deployment to RIA news agency. 

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