New satellite imagery shared exclusively with CNN shows Russia appearing to upgrade four of its military installations in Kaliningrad, Russia's strategic outpost on NATO's doorstep.
Kaliningrad -- Russian territory that's sandwiched between Poland and the Baltics but disconnected from the rest of Russia, known as an exclave -- has been a focal point in tensions between Russia and the West.
Earlier this year, aerial images came to light that suggested the Russians had significantly modernized a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad. Now, satellite imagery and analysis from ImageSat International, a commercial satellite firm, appear to confirm that a major modernization is underway in at least four locations throughout the region.
Those upgrades include fresh work at what analysts have identified as the Kaliningrad nuclear weapons storage site. Images captured between July 19 and October 1 indicate work on an exposed bunker under renovation that appears to conceal activity underneath.
Kaliningrad matters because of its strategic location.
"It's very important for them [the Russians] because that is their port on the Baltic sea," said Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.
"They don't have a land bridge that extends to that area ... and so they've built it up over time."
Foggo, who did not comment directly on the new images, said Russia's presence in the exclave does not deter NATO from operating in the region.
"If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them," he said. "We're not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there."
But US military officials say they are concerned by what they call Russia's ability to establish "anti-access/area denial" capabilities, or, weaponry that reduces NATO's potential freedom to maneuver in the region. Those include some of the modern weapons systems stationed in Kaliningrad, including anti-ship missiles, radar systems and surface-to-air missiles.
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Reported by: CNN