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Kaliningrad Special Defence District (KOR)

The Baltic Military District (MD) was abolished and replaced by the Kaliningrad Special Defence District (KOR) was formed. In December 1997 KOR was abolished as well and the remainder of its land forces were subordinated to the Commander of the Baltic Sea Fleet, including those of the 11th Independent Army.

Kaliningrad is Russian territory, but has no land routes connecting it to the rest of Russia. Short-term agreements have allowed Russia to transit Belarus and Lithuania to Kaliningrad; and Russia will need to have such agreements in the future. However, since much of the Russian material crossing this route is military, Lithuania had raised objections to a treaty extension. Lithuania had also attempted to tie further agreements to its efforts to enter NATO -- an explosive issue in itself for Moscow. The ultra-nationalistic nature of politics in Kaliningrad made an already strained situation regarding future transit rights even worse.

In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union established a formidable, closed enclave in the former East Prussia, including a large naval port at Kaliningrad (formerly Knigsberg). When the Soviet Union collapsed, the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania deprived the new Russian state of major ports on the Baltic Sea, and 15,000-square-kilometer Kaliningrad Oblast between Poland and Lithuania was cut off from Russia. When Russia insisted on maintaining Kaliningrad as a heavily armed garrison, it aroused considerable international criticism, especially from Poland. Knigsberg was awarded to the Soviet Union under the Potsdam Accord in 1945, but the Russian Federation holds no legal title to the enclave.

When Russia withdrew all its former Warsaw Pact forces from Poland and the Baltic states during 1992-94, some air, naval, and ground forces were relocated to Kaliningrad, ostensibly because of housing shortages elsewhere in Russia. In mid-1996 the official military garrison was estimated at 24,000 ground troops of the 11th Guards Combined Arms Army, including one tank division and three motorized rifle divisions, three artillery brigades, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, and attack helicopters. The Baltic Fleet, which has its headquarters at Kaliningrad, includes three cruisers, two destroyers, eighteen frigates, sixty-five patrol boats, and 195 combat aircraft, together with one brigade of naval infantry and two regiments of coastal defense artillery. Western experts estimate that the total Kaliningrad garrison includes as many as 200,000 military personnel, compared with the official Russian figure of 100,000.

In 1993 the population of the enclave was about 900,000, of whom about 700,000 were Russians. There is strong sentiment in favor of autonomy among the civilian population, and international pressure continues to advocate reducing the garrison to a level of "reasonable sufficiency," far below its current size. Many Russian military authorities agree with this idea because maintaining the Kaliningrad force is extremely expensive. However, a large-scale deemphasis of the military would be difficult because the entire oblast has been structured to meet the needs of the armed forces. In addition, Russian nationalists argue that Kaliningrad is a vital outpost at a time when Russia is menaced by possible Polish or even Lithuanian membership in NATO.

Kaliningrad is the main base of the Baltic Fleet, which has been strengthened in recent years; by the end of 2014 the fleet should get its fifth Steregushchy-class corvette, which is a fully modern warship and also has surface-to-land gun support capability, previous ones had only ship-to-ship capability. Likely a new Ivan Gren-class landing ship will be added this year, making it possible to land marines and matriel. And naturally there's an Air Force base in Kaliningrad, where bombers are based.

Kaliningrad is home to one motor rifle brigade, one motor rifle regiment and the Baltic Fleet Marine Brigade. Both the marines and the rifle brigade are now at full capacity after the 2008 army reform. Kaliningrad has new S-400 SAMs, which have a theoretical range of up to 450 km. The current anti-aircraft missiles allow much of Poland and likely Latvia to be covered. With long-range SAMs, even Gotland and much of the Baltic Sea could be covered.

US President Barack Obama announced on 17 September 2009 that Washington would not deploy missile-defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland due to a re-assessment of the threat from Iran, refocusing U.S. missile defenses on a more flexible approach. Following Obama's announcement, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he decided against deploying Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region, which Russia had threatened to do if the U.S. went ahead with plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station the Czech Republic.

Iskander tactical missiles have never been deployed in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad despite the threat to use them in response to U.S missile shield plans, the commander of the Russian Navy said 01 October 2009. The Russian Defense Ministry said in June that the first Iskander battalion entered service with the Armed Forces in 2008 and the second would become operational in 2009. Their deployment location is kept secret. "We do not have and never had [Iskander] tactical missiles in the Kaliningrad region," Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said.

The Russian Defense Ministry will modernize two airfields in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, Commander of the Baltic Fleet Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said on 22 February 2012. We are planning to increase the length of the runway to 3,500 meters at the airfield in Chkalovsk so that it would be able to receive any kind of aircraft, including Boeings and Airbuses, Chirkov said. The reconstruction will take about two years. The Defense Ministry is also planning to rebuild an abandoned Soviet-era airfield for hydroplanes on the Baltic Spit. The admiral said the Baltic Fleet will have at least four amphibious aircraft for reconnaissance and search-and-rescue missions by March 2013.

Russia had recently activated a long-range radar in the region and was planning to deploy S-400 Triumf air defense systems and Iskander (SS-26 Stone) tactical missile systems there in the near future.

Russia confirmed 16 December 2013 that it had deployed tactical ballistic missiles near its borders with NATO but said the move did not violate international agreements. Bild newspaper in Germany reported over the weekend that Russia had quietly moved 10 Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) missile systems into its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and along its border with the Baltic States and NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The deployment marked the realization of threats from Moscow to respond with a firm gesture to NATO plans to place elements of the so-called European missile shield close to Russian borders. The deployment of Iskander missile battalions on the territory of the Western Military District does not violate any respective international agreements, ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said. Konashenkov declined to provide details on the number of deployed missiles or their specific locations.




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