Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his aggressive actions and rhetoric Monday, pledging to take “countermeasures” in response to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe despite President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a detente with the Kremlin.
Putin gave no details as to what the countermeasures would include. Instead, the Kremlin announced Monday that it increased its missile defense capabilities in Kaliningrad, a strategically important Russian enclave in Eastern Europe, reported Reuters.
“Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO’s decision making,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying in an interview.
NATO announced plans to deploy thousands of troops and military equipment in eastern Europe in late October in an effort to counter Russian provocations. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is “responding in a measured and responsible way because we are not seeking a new Cold War. We want to keep tensions as low as possible.”
Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles were included in the new deployment to Kaliningrad. The S-400 system is Russia’s most advanced air defense system, with the ability to shoot down both enemy aircraft and missiles. The new system follows deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in October. Russia’s new deployments are part of a larger military build-up along NATO’s eastern border, which includes troop increases, cyber attacks and aggressive military provocations.
Trump promised to reach out to Russia during his campaign in an effort to remedy tensions between Washington and Moscow, but he may face significant backlash from both Democrats and fellow Republicans. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, called Trump’s plan to work with Russia in Syria “unacceptable.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-time McCain ally, said Congress will continue to push back against Russian aggression, despite Trump’s victory.
“[Trump] wants to reset with Russia. Maybe he can do it, but here’s my view about Russia: They’re a bad actor in the world, they need to be reined in,” said Graham last Tuesday. “I think [Russia] should pay a price heavier than they’re paying now for what they’re doing in Syria and in Eastern Europe. I will consult with my colleagues what there is appetite for.”
NATO members in eastern Europe are not waiting around to see the results of a Trump presidency regarding Russia. Some, like Poland and Estonia, have resorted to training citizens in guerrilla warfare in order to counter a potential Russian invasion.
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