Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 and the current deputy chairman of its security council, warned on Thursday that Russia could reposition nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad, its small enclave along the Baltic coast, and along its border with Finland, if Sweden and Finland were admitted into the NATO military alliance.
Medvedev couched the warning in defensive terms, arguing that Russia would need to strengthen its forces in the Baltic Sea to maintain the regional balance of power in response to either nation’s entry.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” Medvedev said. He urged the two countries not to join NATO, arguing that it would unacceptably increase tensions along Russia’s western frontier. Moscow shares an 830-mile border with Finland, mostly lying in the Arctic Circle.
“No sane person wants higher prices and higher taxes, increased tensions along borders, Iskanders, hypersonics and ships with nuclear weapons literally at arm’s length from their own home,” Medvedev said, referencing Russia’s “Iskander” short-range ballistic missiles, which have been stationed in Kaliningrad since 2018. “Let’s hope that the common sense of our northern neighbors will win.”
Medvedev’s comments were echoed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who argued that “reinforcing our western flank” had been a Russian priority for several years, as tensions escalated between Russia and the West over Moscow’s relationship with Kyiv.
“This has been talked about many times,” the spokesman said, referring to new missile deployments in Kaliningrad, although he refused to comment on the likelihood that some of the missiles could be nuclear-armed.
The Baltic states have largely dismissed Russian rhetoric concerning new weapons deployments in Kaliningrad, with Lithuanian defense minister Arvydas Anusauskas arguing that undeclared nuclear weapons had been deployed to the enclave long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the prospect of Finnish and Swedish NATO accession.
Both Stockholm and Helsinki, which remained neutral during the Cold War, have expressed interest in entering NATO in response to the Russian invasion. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party has committed to discussions on NATO membership, while the Finnish government has announced that it will make the decision within weeks.
Russia has the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and, along with the United States and China, has increasingly developed advanced nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that are virtually impossible for air defenses to intercept.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.