The small Russian province of Kaliningrad, which is isolated from the rest of Russia by Poland, as well as Lithuania on the Baltic coast, heightened tensions between Russia and NATO.
These tensions were already strained to a great extent by the attack on Ukraine.
What Happens Now?
A little less than 500,000 people live in the Baltic Sea Russian oblast (area) of Kaliningrad. It is almost 1,300 kilometers away from Moscow and situated between Poland, as well as Lithuania to the south and north.
After World War II, the Soviet Union seized it from Germany. Russia has been in charge ever since.
On June 17, the sixth round of EU sanctions on Russia went into force. Lithuania made the announcement that transport of banned Russian products to Kaliningrad via Lithuania would be prohibited.
Oil, refined oil products, and any technology that may be utilized for military reasons are also subject to the restrictions. Cement, building supplies, and metal commodities were likewise on the list.
An arrangement between the EU and Russia that permitted individuals/products from Kaliningrad to receive a transit certificate for rail travel from Lithuania to Russia was put in jeopardy by the judgment.
This deal was struck in April 2003. Josep Borell, the high commissioner of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, endorsed the choice and claimed Lithuania was appropriately carrying out EU sanctions.
A clear threat to a NATO country from Putin. Can we hear a clear statement from Biden and other NATO leaders that every inch of Lithuanian territory will be defended? It's no longer hypothetical. https://t.co/3nSIJpeMvM
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) June 23, 2022
Moscow responded quickly and forcefully, warning “severe repercussions,” which have not yet been detailed.
On June 20, the chargé d’affaires of Lithuania received a summons to the foreign office and was warned to lift the limitations or face the repercussions.
Andrey Klimov, a senator on the Federal Assembly in Russia, urged the EU to “correct Vilnius’s impudent petty trick.”
Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the Russian Security Council, said “necessary sanctions” would have a “severe detrimental impact on the people of Lithuania.”
Following a debate on removing the Soviet Union’s acknowledgment of Lithuania’s sovereignty in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, on June 8, relations between Vilnius and Moscow have risen sharply.
Lithuania also emphasizes its sovereignty by taking a position on the transportation of commodities to Kaliningrad.
The Baltic is Under Threat
Russia deployed short-range Iskander rockets in Kaliningrad in 2016 that are capable of reaching the capitals of the Baltic States and two-thirds of Poland, due to deteriorating ties with Russia and the West.
The Russian Baltic Navy air force practiced striking Kaliningrad in April 2022. This was a major issue for Vilnius since it had more than 1,000 workers and was occurring during a period of heightened strife over Ukraine.
More than three days have passed since Huylo's ultimatum to Lithuania.
Lithuania does not give a shit about it. pic.twitter.com/nEbZYCeR0s
— Fuat (@lilygrutcher) June 23, 2022
On June 22, the Russian military practiced missile assaults on Estonia while extensively involving the Baltic Sea Fleet and breaching Estonian territory with helicopters.
The Lithuanian government’s concern about being cut off is understandable. The Suwaki gap, which separates Belarus from Kaliningrad, is a 100-kilometer-long area of territory straddling the Polish and Lithuanian borders.
This has long been a vulnerability for NATO because it allows Russia to easily isolate the Baltic States.
It would be NATO’s weakest point, albeit it is still a remote possibility. Therefore, Vilnius reacts alarmingly to Russian military exercises in Kaliningrad.