Moscow has moved nuclear-capable missiles near the Polish border, its defence ministry confirmed on Saturday, as Germany’s foreign minister warned that tensions between Russia and the West were “more dangerous” today than during the Cold War.
Russia moved missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons into Kaliningrad, an Russian coastal enclave nestled between Poland and Lithuania. The Iskander missiles have a range of 450 miles, meaning they could hit Berlin if launched from Kaliningrad.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said he was watching the collapsing relations between the West and Russia with dismay.
“It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War. The current times are different and more dangerous,” Mr Steinmeier told Bild newspaper.
His sentiments were echoed by Wolfgang Ischinger, a German official who served as a mediator for Ukraine, who told the newspaper that there was “considerable danger of a military confrontation” between Russia and the West.
“This danger has not been as strong in decades and the confidence between West and East has never been so low,” he said.
Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, said Russia’s missile deployment was an effort to “seek concessions from the West” over the conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine, while Poland said Russia’s behavior was “very alarming”.
Both countries are Nato members, meaning that Britain and other countries are obligated to come to their aid if they are attacked.
Russia said the deployment was part of a routine missile drill that it was carrying out across the country.
It came as Russia and the US prepared to clash at the UN with rival resolutions over Aleppo.
The US has backed a French resolution demanding Russian and the Syrian regime cease their aerial bombardment of the city, which Russia vetoed.
The French draft received 11 votes in favour, while China and Angola abstained. Venezuela joined Russia in voting against it.
Russia offered a resolution of its own, which allowed for the bombardment to continue, and was opposed by the US, Britain and France.
British UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft told Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin: “Thanks to your actions today, Syrians will continue to lose their lives in Aleppo and beyond to Russian and Syrian bombing. Please stop now.”
As diplomatic tensions over Syria continued at the UN, the Syrian regime continued to advance street by street in Aleppo. Bashar al-Assad’s troops, backed by fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, pushed back rebel and jihadist forces in the north and the centre of the city.
At least 305 civilians have been killed in rebel-held areas since Mr Assad’s forces began its ground offensive in late September, backed by Russian and regime aircraft.
The Russian defense ministry said on Saturday that one of its helicopters had been shot at with a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile fired by militants from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). The helicopter escaped unscathed.
Russia said its intelligence indicated that the fighters in Syria had received the missiles from Iraq. If confirmed, the incident represents a potentially alarming escalation in Isil’s weaponry.
Moderate rebel groups in Syria have begged the US for anti-aircraft weaponry but President Barack Obama has refused to give it to them out of concern that the missiles would eventually end up in the hands of jihadists.