Russia threatens retaliation if US sends weapons to Baltics

Russia has threatened to provide an "adequate response" to the prospect of increased US military presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, after the governments of both Poland and Lithuania confirmed that they are in talks with Washington about storing heavy US arms.

The relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated to its lowest point since the end of the Cold War over the Ukrainian crisis and it has already prompted Nato to dramatically heighten defences on its eastern border. Meanwhile Russia has continued to conduct incresaing numbers of military exercises, patrol flights and snap drills near European territory, which has led to neighbours such as the Baltics and Poland saying they feel threatened.

Over the weekend the New York Times reported that the Pentagon was considering storing battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons to accommodate around 5,000 Nato troops across the Baltics and Eastern Europe. Polish defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak and Lithuanian defence minister Yukos Olekas have both confirmed that such a plan is indeed being discussed. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė told press today she would welcome the decision.

Reports of the reinforcement measures have not been well received in Russia. Russian army general Yuriy Yakubov told news agency Interfax that Moscow would consider the arrival of US tanks and artillery in Eastern Europe "the most aggressive step by Nato and the Pentagon since the days of the Cold War."

"Thus Russia will have no other option besides boosting its troops and capabilities on its western flank," Yakobov said.

"Firstly the forces stationed along the perimeter of Russia's western border will be strengthened to include forming new tank and artillery capabilities. The missile brigade in the Kaliningrad region is also going to be rearmed faster to begin using the new tactical missile systems Iskander," Yakobov added.

According to Yakobov, Russia's presence in states such as Belarus, which is a member of the country's post-Soviet alternative to Nato, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, will also be affected by Nato's moves.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin refused to comment on the reports, opting to wait until an official announcement from Washington and Nato had been made.

When Nato announced it is going to increase its rapid reaction force to 30,000 troops and heighten six former Communist members' ability to receive them earlier this year, Russia's ministry of defence condemned the strategy.

"This plan is in and of itself very disturbing, because it is about raising NATO capabilities on our borders," Alexander Lukashevich, spokesman for the ministry said.

Amidst fears of Russian aggression Lithuania has reintroduced military conscription and issued a citizen manual to spot precursors of Russian armed aggression such as disinformation campaigns. Meanwhile Poland has moved to enforce its 200km border with Russia's Baltic enclave, Kaliningrad, to include six observation towers and other monitoring facilities.

Ex-Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently said that Europe's eastern members feel threatened by potential 'hybrid attacks' from Russia which are under the threshold of open war because they are preceded by propaganda and disinformation campaigns such as the one taking place in eastern Ukraine. He urged Nato should work on its way of defining armed attacks to incorporate this concept.