In the run up to the annual NATO summit held in Brussels, expert analysis of satellite imagery has revealed the Russian Federation has taken swift and dramatic steps to enhance military outposts in the Baltiysk District of the Kaliningrad Oblast.
A federal subject of the Russian Federation, the Kaliningrad Oblast is an exclave bordering both Poland and Lithuania, both of which are member states of NATO. Its west borders the Baltic Sea.
According to aerial photos studied by defense experts, the area is now the center of Russian attention and is receiving vast upgrades to existing military facilities.
Careful inspection has uncovered a narrow strip of the Baltiysk has undergone a stunning transformation, with the construction of new structures and fortifications for what defense experts say serve military purposes only.
In an email to Defense One, Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst with 3GIMBALS, describes the conclusions drawn through an analysis of the satellite images:
“The visible change between the two images provided appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures. There also appears to be clearings, new structures visible within the the forested portion of the installation, as well as a berm and exterior fence surrounding the installation. Every structure in the northern non-forested sector have been reinforced during the three month period of the imagery.”
Hall added the imagery brought to light the construction of a rail line to the area, which he concludes is likely connected to a nearby national line.
Already home to Russia’s powerful Baltic fleet, the Baltiysk District has welcomed the addition of Russian troops and the placement of Iskander-M and Bastion missile systems since 2015. The Iskander-M is a nuclear-capable weapon system.
In addition to the new construction, a June report complied by the Federation of American Scientists revealed an underground nuclear weapon complex at Kulikovo, eight miles from Baltiysk.
Despite the unprecedented modernization, which has been defined as hostile and ratcheting up flaring tensions with the West, Russia maintains its efforts are purely defensive in nature.
The prodigious new work on existing military installations coincides with the deployment of U.S. troops in Russian’s neighbor, Finland, NATO military exercises in Poland, Saber Strike 2018 and a request by Poland for a permanent U.S. military base in the country.
NATO’s annual conference is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, in Brussels, Belgium. President Trump will then travel to Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for his first summit with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, which the New York businessman has described as the “easiest” of all his upcoming meetings.
[Defense One] [Business Insider] [CNN] [EURACTIV] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Sputnik/Nikolay Hiznyak]