Apr 14, 2022 - World

Russia threatens to deploy nukes to Baltic if Sweden and Finland join NATO

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, speaking in Moscow in February 2022.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, speaking in Moscow in February 2022. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has threatened to bolster its defenses in the Baltic, including deploying nuclear weapons to the region, if Sweden and Finland joined NATO, according to Reuters.

Driving the news: Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, issued the warning Thursday, per Reuters. Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has galvanized Sweden and Finland, two historically neutral countries, into joining the defensive alliance.

What they're saying: Medvedev, who was Russia's president from 2008 to 2012, said their joining would mean there "can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored."

  • "Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to," Medvedev said, implying that Russia has not already deployed nuclear weapons to the Baltic.

Yes, but: Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said Russia already has nuclear weapons in its Kaliningrad enclave.

  • "The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania's border," Anusauskas said, according to Reuters.
  • "Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad ... the international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this ... They use it as a threat," he added.

The big picture: Russia made extensive upgrades to a large weapons storage site in the Kaliningrad region — about 50 kilometers from the Polish border — between 2016 and 2018, according to satellite images analyzed by the Federation of American Scientists.

  • The facility's attributes, namely large underground weapon igloos and multi-layered security perimeters, suggest that it held, or can hold, nuclear weapons.
  • The analyst could not determine from the images if the facility actively held such weapons.

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