Remember yesterday's Obamagon announcement that an Iran-targeted U.S. anti-missile installation was being activated in Romania, and the Russians' faux angry, paranoid reaction to it? Looks like they're using it as a ready-made excuse to escalate their anti-NATO military buildup:
Vladimir Putin on Friday described the development of NATO's U.S.-led missile defense program as a threat to global security and vowed that Russia will take the necessary steps to maintain a strategic parity.... [emphasis added]
Putin said Russia "will do everything needed to ensure and preserve the strategic balance, which is the most reliable guarantee from large-scale military conflicts," but will not get drawn into an arms race.
....by doing everything they can to tip the "strategic balance" lopsidedly in their favor:
Earlier this week, Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev, chief of the Russian military's Strategic Missile Forces, said new types of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles accelerate faster and are equipped with maneuverable warheads, making them more difficult to intercept.
Which, of course, has nothing to do with the European theater at all.
In another potential response, the military has talked about stationing its state-of-the art Iskander missiles to Russia's westernmost Baltic outpost of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Last year, the missiles were airlifted there during military maneuvers in a demonstration of their swift deployment capability, but were pulled back to their permanent base after the drills.
On other words, the Iskanders - which are nuclear-capable - were never pulled back and all but have secretly remained in Keliningrad, and this is the excuse Moscow is using to admit it and justify keeping them there.
The Iskander missiles, which have a range of up to five hundred kilometers (three hundred miles), would put most of Poland in reach if deployed from the Kaliningrad region.
"Dismantle your Romanian anti-missile installation, or we nuke Poland," is how I would be interpreting that move. Who knows how the White House will interpret it. Although I'm guessing that that Romanian anti-missile installation will soon be, very quietly, deactivated.
At any rate, the ball's back in Red Barry's court. Which is always a source of comfort.