Kaliningrad, the former guardian of the Soviet borders that Putin dreamed of as a Trojan horse in the EU. But without supplies it risks collapse

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is a product of the era of Stalin: since the conference of Tehran in December 1943 the Kremlin made clear the will to want to permanently occupy this portion of the territory squeezed between the Polandthe Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, and inhabited for nearly seven centuries by the Germans. The Kaliningrad oblast, to understand what it is about, has a surface more or less equal to that of Calabria and currently has a resident population – almost 90% ethnically Russian – approximately equal to the city of Turin. On one side it overlooks the Baltic Sea for 145 kilometers, while on the other sides it borders the European Union. This point is very important: it is not Poland or Lithuania that decides on the trafficking in people, goods, capital and services between these countries and Kaliningrad, but it is there European Commission. In short, Warsaw And Vilnius they are only executors of decisions taken by all countries and by the “government of the Union”, but in fact they are directly at the forefront. Moscow threatening Vilnius – instead of Brussels – she tells her daughter-in-law why her mother-in-law intends.

Why is this exclave so important to Moscow, whose capital is more than a thousand kilometers away as the crow flies? Let’s say it’s a wreck of the Second World War and the first part of the Cold War that theSoviet Union recent years and the Russian Federation after 1991 have struggled to recognize its – too ambitious – role at the outset. In practice, three generations ago the human and military presence of the Soviets in Kaliningrad served theUSSR to keep one foot in the heart of Europe, with enough battalions a “Settle accounts” with the East Germany – as then happened in 1953 – and with Poland, in case they tried to break away from the Soviet orbit. It also had to – and above all – serve to transform the Baltic Sea into a “Russian lake”thanks to the presence of bases from Germany up to Leningrad: thus, without too many compliments, the Soviet navy – which in the former Tsarist capital had one of its most strategic ports – could easily project itself towards the opposite end of the Baltic Sea and from there, taking advantage of the Swedish neutralityoverlook the Black Sea. Incidentally, Kaliningrad did not even require any fortification: among the allies of Washington And Londononly the Denmark it had a somewhat substantial naval strength. For the rest, the non-alignment of Sweden e Finland gave the Soviets carte blanche in the Baltic. Which, it is worth remembering, has a length of about 1,600 kilometers, 60% more than our Peninsula, while the average width does not reach 200 kilometers. Put simply, it does not offer international waters to pass through but requires from time to time to ask for permission to let commercial ships or cruisers pass.

With the end of the USSR, there was no shortage of doubts about the sustainability of the management of this patch of land: Lithuania, Poland and even Germany were not too interested in taking it, also due to almost 1 million Russians within it, potentially a “Trojan horse” of Moscow. Thus, with the return of Putin in the Kremlin, in 2012, the geostrategic role of the small oblast, which represents less than one per thousand of the Russian territory: Moscow has invested heavily in making one base for the navy and missile forces. In doing so, he has shifted the midline of his interests in that area far east, trying to cut through the Baltics – and the Swedish island of Gotland – from the western world. We can say that Putin has all the wrong accounts of him: without the benevolent neutrality of Sweden and Finland, terrorized for years by the Kremlin, moving in those waters without an “international highway” has become impossible. Beyond this summer crisis, it is doubtful that the oblast can survive without the possibility of receiving fuels for the transport and heating, as well as spare parts, by sea and land. Indeed, even by air, given that in any case Russian aircraft or aircraft in transit to and from Russia must request permission from the Baltics, Poles and Scandinavians, all countries “bullied” by Moscow for some time.

In short, this story demonstrates how an important resource, if managed without judgment, can completely lose its value. Thus, it is not excluded that the descendants of nearly half a million Russians who were forcibly moved here in the 1940s may be moved eastward in the coming months so as not to freeze them. But who feels like ruling out that Russia decides, by provocation, to launch gods hypersonic missiles from the ramps positioned in Kaliningrad towards Ukraine, violating Lithuanian airspace as the North Koreans with the Japan?

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