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Russia Moves Missiles Into Illegally Seized Crimea

REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Files.

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

Russia will move advanced S-400 surface to air missiles into the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula next month, Russian Lt. Col. Evgeny Oleinikov recently told RT.

The S-400 missile system is the longest range surface to air missile system in the world, and reflects Russian commitment to defending its annexation of Crimea. Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, despite widespread international condemnation. Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his action citing Crimea’s historic position in the Soviet Union saying at the time, “Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people.”

On top of illegally annexing Crimea, Russia mounted an internationally condemned insurgency inside eastern Ukraine, supporting Russian separatist movements with arms, soldiers, and funding. The conflict has killed thousands on both sides and displaced nearly 1 million people. Russia remains under U.S. and EU sanction for refusing to comply with its obligations to cease fire in Ukraine under the Minsk II agreement.

Putin sees the annexation of Crimea as an integral part of his plan to restore the glory of the Soviet Union. Putin in the past has called the fall of the Soviet Union, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” Putin has used the S-400 missile system to bolster his forces on NATO’s eastern flank, and has committed to selling the system to U.S. enemies such as Iran.

Russia has indicated it will sell the S-400 missile system to Iran in a sign of defiance to the U.S. and its western allies. In 2007, Iran paid 800 million dollars to Russia for missile systems but did not recieve them after strong objections from the U.S. After the annexation of Crimea, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations Russia has indicated it is willing to sell Iran the missile system.

The move also comes after the July 8 summit of NATO leaders, where NATO announced it would send 4 additional battalions to the Baltic States. The battalions are meant to be a clear sign of NATO commitment to defending its eastern flank. NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg called the move “the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”

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