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Lithuania: the small Baltic country that is Russia’s new headache in the midst of the war with Ukraine

Kaliningrad, Russian enclave within Europe.

Kaliningrad is now the new name that we will have to learn to understand another edge of the invasion of Russia a Ukraine. This administrative region of Russia has several peculiarities: it has coasts on the Baltic Sea, it does not have land borders with the rest of the country and, in addition, it is surrounded by Poland and Lithuania.

Precisely for this reason, it has become another point of conflict. The Lithuanian government announced that it will prevent the passage of Russian products subject to European Union sanctions to Kaliningrad, which has already caused outrage from Moscow that has already put it in the spotlight.

Kaliningrad, Russian enclave within Europe.

These are restrictions on the transit of iron and steel goods through a railway corridor that connects Kaliningrad with the rest of the Russian mainland and that it must cross Lithuania and also Belarusally of the Kremlin.

“Russia will certainly respond to these hostile actions,” Nikolai Patrushev, a former KGB agent who is now secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Tuesday. “Appropriate measures are being worked out and will be taken in the near future. Its consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”

Lithuaniaa member of NATO and the European Union, has indicated that it is only applying the sanctions agreed by the bloc to Russia, adding that it is “ironic” to listen to Moscow’s complaints.

READ ALSO: Kaliningrad, the Russian territory within Europe that will now be surrounded by NATO countries

“It is ironic to hear the rhetoric about alleged violations of international treaties from a country that has possibly violated all international treaties”Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters.

Moscow has accused Lithuania of violating both the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the 2002 Joint Declaration on transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation.

According to the Government of Lithuaniano lock has been applied to Kaliningrad, as the Kremlin claims. But the truth is that preventing the transit of sanctioned goods between Russia and Kaliningrad especially complicates the enclave, which depends almost entirely on shipments of products arriving from the Russian territory.

Through freight trains, like these, products arrive from Russia to Kaliningrad, the enclave of the Baltic Sea that is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland.  REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar
Through freight trains, like these, products arrive from Russia to Kaliningrad, the enclave of the Baltic Sea that is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar / VITALY SNOW

strategic and nuclear

Kaliningrad it is one of the 46 administrative regions -or oblásts- that the Russian Federation has, and it is the only one that does not share a land border with the country. It was German territory until the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), when after the Yalta Agreement, the then port of Königsberg passed to the Soviet Union and was renamed Kaliningrad, in honor of the Bolshevik revolutionary Mikhail Kalinin.

As the AFP agency recalls, the territory has an important military tradition from its Prussian past and was a strategic enclave during the Cold War.

Faced with NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe, Moscow has reinforced its military presence in Kaliningrad. In 2012, the Kremlin deployed the S-400, a long-range missile defense system, there; and in 2016 it sent an Iskander missile system with nuclear warheads capable of reaching Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

In February this year, Russia deployed hypersonic missiles there, just before its troops entered Ukraine.

strained relationships

For almost 45 years, Lithuania and Russia belonged to the same state – the Soviet Union. After the end of the Cold War, the Baltic country declared its independence in 1990 and maintained a close relationship with Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation.

However, since the 2000s, relations between the two countries began to cool down, especially since Lithuania’s accession in 2004 to NATO, the Atlantic military alliance led by Western countries and which has become the main pain of Moscow head. Estonia and Latvia, the rest of the Baltic countries with a Soviet past, also joined NATO as a way of defending themselves against Russia and serving as a plug in the complicated geopolitical map of Eastern Europe.

Last April, the presidents of the Baltic countries met with their Ukrainian and Polish counterparts in kyiv. From left to right: Gitanas Nauseda (Lithuania), Andrzej Duda (Poland), Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukraine), Egils Levits (Latvia) and Estonian Alar Karis. REUTERS / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS BE

The Kremlin knows that any military intimidation of the Baltic countries will determine NATO’s response, thanks to the treaty that states that any aggression against a member country must be defended.

Equally, Lithuania entered the European Union and began to link more politically and economically with the countries of Western Europe.

This is how he explains it professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at the University of Vilnius, in Lithuania: “During the 2000s, political disagreements between Lithuania and Russia on issues such as dealing with each other’s history intensified. The demands of the Lithuanian authorities to compensate the damages suffered by the country due to the Soviet occupation were received with hostility in Moscow. Also, views on regional security issues and the relationship between Western organizations and Eastern neighbors such as Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia diverged considerably. While Lithuania supported the sovereign choice of these countries to conduct its foreign policy and choose its allies, Russia was strongly opposed to closer relations with the EU and NATO.”points out the academic in an article for the University of Turku, Finland.

These disagreements between Lithuania Y Russia undoubtedly create a new front of confrontation in the war in Ukraine that, for now, is far from over, and put more tension in the Baltic Sea that will shortly be controlled by 90% of the countries of the NATO, if Sweden and Finland join soon.

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