Belarussian president and Cold War leftover Alexander Lukashenko is allegedly in negotiations with Moscow to base Iskander missiles (a short range, non-nuclear ballistic missile) in his country. This is based on Lukashenko’s representation. He goes on to say that Russia approached him about the basing possibility.
One potential problem. There aren’t enough missiles to go around. According to StrategyPage:
For the second time this month, Russia has changed its policy regarding its new SS-26 (9M723K1, or “Iskander”) ballistic missiles. First it said it was sending some to Kaliningrad, as a way to threaten the new NATO anti-missile system being built in Poland (to protect Europe from Iranian missiles). Now Russia says it will halt any exports of the Iskander missile until it has produced the hundred or so it plans to send to Kaliningrad. Syria, Kuwait, South Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates were all interested in Iskander. The export version, Iskander-E, would have a shorter range (280 kilometers) and fewer countermeasures for the warhead.
Russia now plans to send five brigades of Iskander (60 launchers, each with one missile, plus reloads, which could amount to over a hundred missiles) to Kaliningrad. Iskander is just entering production, and it would take several years, at least, to produce that many. Actually, it might take five or more years to produce enough missiles for five brigades, because Russian missile production capabilities have sharply deteriorated since the end of the Cold War in 1991. This is one reason why the current Russian government is making so much noise about this imaginary NATO plot to surround and subdue Russia. Losing the Cold War did not go down well in Russia. Rather than forget and move on, many Russians prefer to remember, and use the imagined evil intentions of their Cold War foes to explain away defects in the Russian character.
[Bonus jab at the end. Austin Bay/Jim Dunnigan/SWP must drink the same water;-) ].
So, if SP is to be believed (and it is a pretty reliable source, certainly more informed and informative about military matters than any mainstream publication), the Lukashenko statement is just gas. So why make it?
For one thing, Lukashenko is something of a publicity hound, and with all the attention to Iskanders in Kalliningrad, this is an opportunity for him to get some attention.
For another, Lukashenko is busy, very busy, playing both sides against the middle. Due to energy and other things, the Russians have him by the, well, you know, and so he has been trying to clean up his act (or at least his image) in the West in an attempt to get some leverage to use against the Russians. At the same time, given his delicate position, he needs to give the Russians something. Especially since he has pretty much stonewalled them on supporting their actions in Georgia/South Ossetia/Abkhazia. A very public air kiss on something like the Iskanders is just the ticket. It plays into the very public Russian campaign against missile defenses in Central Europe.
Lukashenko’s assertion that the Russians approached him with the idea is also consistent with the notion that he is being a willing participant in a broader Kremlin anti-anti-missile-missile campaign, a campaign that has ratcheted up several notches with Medvedev’s greeting card to Obama. Of course, Lukashenko probably expects some love in return.
But, if StrategyPage is right, this is all PRBS, and should be treated accordingly.
Finally, one other SP note. It has a predictions market. The newest prediction on which you can bet:
As a result of the financial crisis, Russia loses it internally, and descends into civil disorder.
Sounds made to order for SWP readers! I know how Timothy, DR, Penny, and LR are gonna vote;-)
As for me, it depends on the price. I’d be a buyer at any price under, say, thirty percent. Maybe even a little richer than that.
One question about the prediction/bet though–how does one define “civil disorder”? 1917 redux? A repeat of 1991? What about 1993? How many heads does OMON have to bust to qualify?
The interesting thing to me is that the possibility is even being mooted.