Friday, March 11, 2022

"Moscow Preparing for Possible Blockade of Kaliningrad"

We last visited the Jamestown Foundation on Kaliningrad in November with this purloined map as the graphic:
"Lithuania and Poland Want to ‘Recover’ Kaliningrad, Russian Analysts Say"
That would certainly shake things up:

And here's the latest from the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, March 10:

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has worried about maintaining transportation links with its non-contiguous exclave of Kaliningrad. These worries intensified when the two countries cutting Kaliningrad off from the rest of the Russian Federation (and Moscow-aligned Belarus)—Poland and Lithuania—became members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. Moreover, the conduct of Russian military exercises last fall spotlighted the Kremlin’s anxieties that, in the event of war, the West would at a minimum blockade Kaliningrad by sea and might even seize this heavily-fortified Russian outpost outright (see EDM, October 12, 2021 and November 2, 2021). Now, because of Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine and the West’s sharp response, Moscow’s fears about its vulnerable links with Kaliningrad have reached a crescendo. And so the Russian authorities are taking a variety of steps, both defensive and offensive, to ensure that it will maintain supplies to and control of a region that historically was part of Germany but was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Moscow’s concerns about these links have grown in recent days, after the EU closed its airspace to Russian flights, forcing planes to fly much further between Kaliningrad and Russia proper (, February 28). This was exacerbated by bomb threats that forced at least one Russian plane on this route to turn around, even though the threats proved to be false (, March 9). Moscow has insisted that the closure of European airspace does not amount to a blockade, because Russia can still supply Kaliningrad by rail and road through Lithuania, albeit with increasing delays, and by sea as well. Using this last means, over the last few weeks Moscow boosted supplies of food to Kaliningrad as well as components needed for the local industrial sector. Nonetheless, commercial production there has decreased, suggesting these supplies may not be enough (, February 26;, February 28; Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 10; Kalningrad Today, March 9).

Moscow clearly is also apprehensive about the possibility of social unrest in Kaliningrad during this crisis. It has cracked down hard on local anti-war protesters (, March 7). Moreover, the authorities appear nervous that recent increases in migration to this detached region from other parts of the Russian Federation could spark inflationary food prices that surpass inflation levels hitting the rest of Russia. Those spiraling costs could cause not only widespread public anger but even hunger (RBC, March 9, 2022; Regnum, October 13, 2021)....


Related from 19fortyfive, January 18, 2022: