Moscow plans overhaul of Baltic Fleet, based off Poland
The Russian Navy's plans to modernize its Baltic Fleet with equipment upgrades and streamlining of personnel should not be seen as a response to a US-Polish plan to locate a missile battery in the region, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman said Thursday, DPA reported.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev plans to bring the ageing fleet up to the latest standards as well as cut thousands of jobs to shorten the chain of command, Interfax news agency reported.
But the modernization of the fleet, headquartered in the Kaliningrad enclave between Poland and Lithuania, had nothing to do with a US-Polish agreement to place a Patriot missile battery in Morag, a town just 100 kilometres from the Russian border, the Defence Ministry spokesman said.
The Russian state news agency Ria Novosti earlier quoted an unnamed high-level Navy official saying that Russian warships armed with long-range missiles would in the future patrol the region due to the US-Polish missile deal.
The US Patriot missiles soon to arrive in Poland are part of a deal proposed by former US President George Bush that gave Poland military aid in exchange for US hosting rights for an anti-missile shield.
Morag was chosen because it had good conditions to house the buildings, accommodation and technology that will come with the missile battery, Polish Defence Ministry spokesman Janusz Sejmej said Wednesday.
The battery will be manned by some 100 US soldiers, and will contain four to eight missiles. It is set to arrive in Poland in April and will take two months to set up.
The Obama administration's decision to abandon the original shield was viewed by some as a capitulation to Moscow, who had complained the system was aimed at them, rather than Iran.