Russia Could Block Access to Baltic Sea, US General Says

Happier times: The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), left, and the Russian amphibious ship RFS Kaliningrad (LSTM 102) conduct anti-piracy training during the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2012 exercise.

U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian T. Glunt

AA Font size + Print

Happier times: The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), left, and the Russian amphibious ship RFS Kaliningrad (LSTM 102) conduct anti-piracy training during the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2012 exercise.

Moscow’s recent wargames in its Kaliningrad exclave have included mock nuclear strikes, the top U.S. Army general in Europe said.

Russia has moved ballistic missiles to and conducted nuclear strike drills from its Kaliningrad exclave, prompting Pentagon fears that Moscow could block access to the Baltic Sea.

There is a “significant amount of capability” in Kaliningrad, including anti-ship weapons, air defenses, and electronic warfare equipment, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said Wednesday.

“They could make it very difficult for any of us to get up into the Baltic Sea if we needed to in a contingency,” Hodges said in a briefing at the Pentagon.

Russia has conducted what NATO commanders call “snap exercises”: large-scale drills that are not announced and use sophisticated arms. When NATO holds drills of similar size, Russian observers are invited and typically attend. But NATO officials are not invited to Russian’s snap exercises held in Kaliningrad and nearby Belarus.

“We find out about them when they’re happening,” Hodges said.

For exercises in Kaliningrad, Moscow has deployed the mobile, short-range Iskander ballistic missile, Hodges said.

“We have seen them do exercises where … there’s a nuclear strike,” Hodges said. “They don’t [say] gray land, and silver land, or red land, or stuff like that. They say ‘NATO is the adversary’ when they do their exercises. I mean, they’re pretty blunt about that.”

Hodges said Russia has not conducted a full-scale drill to specifically block access to the Baltic Sea. “I haven’t seen one exercise that looked like a complete rehearsal for that,” he said, but “they’ve done lots of the components that would be required to do those various things in terms of air, maritime, [and] land forces.”

Earlier this year, Russia warned Denmark that Danish ships could become nuclear targets if its government took part in a NATO missile defense project. Hodges called those threats an “irresponsible use of the ‘nuclear’ word.”

“You can understand why our allies on the eastern flank of NATO, particularly in the Baltic region are nervous, are uneasy,” he said.

Tucked between Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad is a strategic outpost for the Russian navy. The Russian air force also has a presence there. By blocking access into the Baltic Sea, Russia could prevent NATO forces from reaching its Baltic allies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, American forces have spent more time in Eastern Europe training with NATO allies. Those exercises are expected to continue in coming years, Hodges said.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.