Russia raises the specter of World War to threaten Lithuania for “blocking” Kaliningrad

A Russian officer in the port of the Kaliningrad region.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Kaliningrad it was called Königsberg and it was one of the cultural centers of East Prussia, precisely because of its privileged geographical location: one step away from Russia, one step away from Poland, one step away from Berlin… and with a commercial port that allowed entry to the city of all kinds of books and revolutionary ideas, typical of an Enlightenment that had the local Immanuel Kant as its main figure in Central Europe.

Königsberg was a place for everyone, a kind of common territory by the sea, until the common territories began to lose their appeal. In 1871, Prussia was renamed Germany and in 1919 the Treaty of Paris that ended World War I established borders for Poland that, in practice, completely isolated Königsberg. So much so that, to recover this centuries-old union, Germany and Poland negotiated a corridor, through Danzig, to avoid the isolation of the port city.

It was precisely the occupation of that corridor by the Nazi army that caused the initial declaration of war against Germany by France and England, thus beginning World War II. We are not talking, then, of just any area in the history of our continent. The Nazi defeat caused Russia to annex that territory as a recreational place -a port to the west, away from the terrible cold of Saint Petersburg, for example-, without thinking that the disappearance of the Soviet Union half a century later would once again change the environment and the context… and would leave Königsberg, now under the name of Kaliningrad, isolated again from the country to which it belonged.

[Lituania bloquea el transporte de mercancías en Kaliningrado y aumenta la tensión Rusia-UE]

In this case, the key was not in the west or in Danzig, but in the east. Kaliningrad borders Poland and Lithuania and is linked to Belarus by the so-called “Suwalki Corridor”, which runs through the territories of these two countries. The only way to send supplies directly to the city is precisely by sea. Petersburg-Kaliningrad trade has always been fruitful and still is. However, Lithuania’s decision to prevent the passage through its territory of Russian products subject to the European Union sanctions implemented on June 17 has been received in Moscow with the usual exaggeration and a string of threats that no longer surprise no one.

The rattle with NATO

Strictly speaking, Lithuania does nothing but comply with the regulations of the European Union. It is not going to expose itself to cutting off maritime trade in these goods, but neither is it going to allow rail trade through its own country. On a theoretical level, there is nothing to reproach them with or anything that Russia should not have foreseen at some point in these four months. Another thing is practice. In practice, as has just been seen with the war in Ukraine itself, everything is too recent and the borders continue to be a constant source of grievance.

[Las deserciones bloquean los avances en el Donbás: el gran problema de Ucrania y Rusia]

Russia tolerated at the time (1990) the independence of the three Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) because there was nothing he could do to prevent it. It is true that we are talking about territories that have always been more linked to Sweden or Poland than to Russia itself and therefore there are no special imperialist aspirations for them. However, the problem for Putin and the Russian nationalists is that these republics are hostile to Russia, have always manifested themselves like this, and geographically “get in the way”. If Stalin annexed them in World War II, it was for a reason.

The very independent existence of these three states already provokes a certain suspicion among the most exalted Russians, those who advocate a “living space” that allows the Motherland to breathe towards the west. His link to NATO and the European Union is, directly, an insult. And the fact is that, after all, this whole problem, this supposed “blockade” of merchandise from Russian territory to Russian territory, would not exist, according to Moscow, if Lithuania, Latvia and Poland were totally independent countries, that is, if they were part of western organizations in full battle against the current Russian annexationist whims.

A Russian officer in the port of the Kaliningrad region.


The golden dream of victimhood

Russia may have reacted in the same way if something similar had affected any of its other cities, but it was clear that the movement in Lithuania was going to provoke this dramatic reaction and this succession of ripping clothes. Kaliningrad is not blocked. 50% of the goods cannot arrive by land because they are under sanctions, but the other 50%, which obviously includes food, medicines and common consumer goods, is not under any threat. Besides, we insist, there are the boats.

It is strange that Russia, which insists that it is not at war with Ukraine, is blocking grain from the few ports in the south of the country that are still under the control of kyiv, but is outraged by the decision of the Lithuanian network. of railways. That said, what is weird in theory is again not weird in practice. Russia is a society in a permanent state of turmoil.which needs to live in indignation 24 hours a day to maintain the tension of a war that cannot be called by that name.

He needs people to understand that everything Putin is doing in the Ukraine he is actually doing for them, and what better excuse than this? What better image than that of a Kaliningrad surrounded by NATO forces that prevent the passage of goods? In the background, for Putin it is a dream in terms of internal propaganda and he will not miss the opportunity. He has been repeating for years “NATO is suffocating us” and here is a NATO country taking advantage of Kaliningrad’s geographical status to effectively separate it from the rest of the Russian Federation. That said, a dream come true.

without fear of fear

Both the Kremlin and its many affiliated media have immediately come out to threaten Lithuania with “retaliation”. During these last few months, we have become accustomed to this empty rhetoric of threatening the fears of others. The Russian leader on duty speaks of “unimaginable consequences” in the hope that everyone, including Lithuania, draws in his head a nuclear missile landing on its borders and the consequent start of an atomic World War that ends the world just as we know.

The problem is that, by repeating it so much, the threat loses strength.. If Lithuania had the slightest fear that Russia would fire a nuclear missile at them, they would not have gotten into this mess. The Lithuanian people have seen a lot throughout the 20th century and at a given moment they decided to become independent precisely to stop living under threat. Another thing is the rest of NATO and the rest of the European Union. That, Russia knows perfectly well. To the most Western countries, with problems to understand the Slavic mentality and with a tendency to tremble feet, these dramatizations can affect us.

Stuck in a seemingly endless war in eastern Ukraine, with tens of thousands dead in its ranks, Russia does not seem to be at the best time to get into another conflict with another country. Probably, he will stir up the specter of World War III for as long as it suits him – it’s funny how Russian public opinion likes that his government flirts with the country’s self-destruction – and then release it into oblivion. Basic goods will arrive, as always, by train, either from Minsk or Moscow. Those sanctioned, by ship or by plane. We do not live in the eighteenth century, as much as some insist.

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Written by Editor TLN

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