World News

Russian missile transfer an aggressive move - Lithuania president

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Russia’s transfer of nuclear-capable missiles to its western outpost of Kaliningrad this month was an aggressive move against the whole of Europe, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Tuesday.

The presence of Iskander-M missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave between NATO members Lithuania and Poland means the western military alliance should seek greater security cooperation with non-members Sweden and Finland, she said.

Russia has said the transfer of the missiles was part of routine drills. Some modifications of the Iskander can hit targets 700 km (450 miles) away.

Russia and NATO are both building up their military capability across eastern Europe, spurred by the conflict in Ukraine which has prompted officials on both sides to talk of the risk of a new, Cold War-style confrontation.

“Knowing that Iskanders are not defence but offence equipment, that means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals,” Grybauskaite said at a news conference after meeting her Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

“What is important today for all of us is to have deep comprehensive partnership with non-NATO members Finland and Sweden... What matters is not the memberships, but real cooperation,” she said.

NATO launched its first annual naval exercise with Finland last June.

Niinisto, noting his country has a large conscription army, said Finland was keeping the door open for possible NATO membership, while it also seeking to reduce tensions in the Baltic Sea area.

“We are cooperating very keenly with Sweden, directly with the United States, and we are enhancing our partnership with NATO. But we do have a dialogue with Russia, the neighbour.”

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Tom Heneghan