New satellite images appear to show Russia may have significantly modernized a nuclear weapons storage bunker and security system at a secret facility in Kaliningrad, a strategic enclave of Russian territory situated between Poland and the Baltics, as tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to escalate, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
On Monday, the FAS published a brand new report revealing several satellite images detailing a significant renovation of what appears to be a buried active nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Polish border.
“It has all the fingerprints of typical Russian nuclear weapons storage sites,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at Federation of American Scientists (FAS), said in a report.
“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing. The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia,” Kristensen explained.
FAS said the images confirm the renovations began at the site in 2016, when one of three underground bunkers was unearthed and strengthened before construction crews backfilled in early 2018, “presumably to return operational status soon.”
A buried nuclear weapons storage bunker in the Kaliningrad district has been under major renovation since mid-2016. (Source: Federation of American Scientists (FAS))
FAS indicates the site’s security system was previously upgraded between 2002 and 2010 when construction crews installed a heavily fortified security perimeter.
Between 2002 and 2010, the security perimeter around the Kulikovo nuclear weapons storage site were cleared and upgraded. (Source: Federation of American Scientists (FAS))
Kristensen said in the report that it was unclear from the satellite images if any nuclear weapons were currently being stored in the vaults of the bunker(s).
“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces.
But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” Kristensen wrote.
“It is to my knowledge the only nuclear weapons storage site in the Kaliningrad region,” Kristensen added.
Moscow has yet to comment on the modernization reports of its nuclear storage site in Kaliningrad, but did mention in 2016 that it deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the region.
And now the underground bunker to securely store nuclear warheads makes sense.
Piecing together the puzzle, Russia could soon deploy quick reaction readiness forces at this facilities, in case, there was a crisis, where teams could retrieve the warheads from the underground bunker/vaults and quickly mount the warheads on the Iskander missiles.
Kristensen said that Moscow maintained its secret stash of nuclear warheads in “central” storage believed to be hiding somewhere in mainland Russia. He suggested that the facility in Kaliningrad “could potentially function as a forward storage site that would be supplied with warheads from central storage sites in a crisis.”
In February, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials expressed concern that Russia recently deployed new missiles to Kaliningrad. A US defense official based in Europe said Moscow’s recent deployment of its Iskander missiles to the region was “the biggest move we’ve seen” regarding Russia’s militarization of the Baltics.
For years, NATO has demanded Moscow to withdraw its nuclear warheads and nuclear-capable missiles from NATO borders.
While NATO forces have surrounded Kaliningrad, in the heart of NATO territory, it seems as Moscow is in the final stages of installing a nuclear deterrence for the region.
What could go wrong? NATO and Russia are armed to kingdom come.