While speaking of the next possible war, Indians may say that war is likely to happen against China. But while looking at the Russian missile placements, some other story is revealed.
Russian defence is strengthening with indigenous missiles. In June, the Russian media reported that Ground Forces missile brigade received the dreaded road-mobile 9K720 Iskander-M missile system. In Russian military, it is known as “operational-tactical missile system” or OTRK in short. This brigade was formed in December 2016 and was initially equipped with old aged 9K79-1 Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile system.
Why is Iskander-M OTRKs deployed in Russia’s Western MD? The main purpose is to hold U.S and allied forces in the Baltics and Poland at risk. But the systems stationed in the Eastern MD are mainly intended to empower Russia’s conventional and nuclear deterrence against China. Wide range of NATO military assets can be targeted by an Iskander-M which is stationed in Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast, even the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland. But USA cannot be threatened by the deployment of Iskander-M.
The Iskander-M 9M723-series of quasi-ballistic missiles have a range of 400-500 kms, whereas 9M728/R-500 ground-launched cruise missile has a range less than 500 km. Due to this, Russia cannot aim at Japan or USA’s assets in South Korea. Even targeting Misawa Air Base is not feasible. Then at whom is Russia aiming its missiles?
The two Iskander-M brigades in Russia’s Far East — the 107th and 20th — are based in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast and Primorsky Krai, respectively. Both of these regions border China. The latter region also encompasses Russia’s 17 km (10.5 mile) land border with North Korea, suggesting that the primary purpose of the two far eastern brigades is containing China and responding to contingencies on the Korean Peninsula.
At the same time, the basing locations of the Eastern MD’s other two Iskander-M brigades likewise point to a focus on China; the 103rd Missile Brigade is stationed in Russia’s Republic of Buryatia, which borders Mongolia, while the newly formed 3rd Missile Brigade is based in Gorny (once known as Chita-46) in Zabaykalsky Krai — a region that borders China’s Inner Mongolia Province.
Russia has not openly expressed any unhappiness against its China’s military steps but by these actions it is clear that Russia isn’t happy with China. It should be noted that in 2014, around 1,oo,ooo Russian troops had performed its military drills. Up to 1,500 tanks, 120 aircraft, 5,000 pieces of weaponry, military and special hardware, and up to 70 ships took part in the exercises. So Russia believes that China is a potential threat.
“Iskander-M units hit two targets at a distance of 200 km (124 miles),”this was said by the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Russian officials have repeatedly praised the Iskander-M.
In August 2016, Russia’s Defense Ministry boasted that a missile launched by an Iskander-M unit from the Jewish Autonomous Oblast during a military exercise scored a “direct hit” against a simulated target some 300 km (186 miles) away in the neighboring Amur Oblast.
Missile test launch was to counter China as the latter was tremendously increasing its precision-strike capabilities.
Russia clearly violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because the treaty clearly bans ballistic missiles and GLCMs with ranges of 500-5,500 km. But Russia has openly said that if necessary than it will increase the strength of the missiles.
In April 2017, the director general of Russia’s Rostec Corporation, Sergey Chemezov, noted that “a modernized variant of the Iskander-M OTRK will be presented after 2020.”
So, by looking at these developments, the Russians are trying to counter every development of Chinese missile technology. War is not possible between China and Russia but when we analyse the missile positioning of the Russians, it all point towards a possible war.