RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Lithuania has imposed its own sanctions against Moscow and is blocking transit through its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Moscow may retaliate militarily or by ending the NATO country’s electricity supply.
On Saturday, the Lithuanian leadership declared that sanctions against the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad would come into force. All cargo traffic from Russia via Belarus to Kaliningrad and back via the land link through the NATO country will be banned if it involves EU-sanctioned products.
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According to Reuters, this includes coal, metals, construction materials, and “advanced technologies.” Given that about half of all goods flow into the area via the rail link, this will worsen the supply situation.
The Kaliningrad blockade is the biggest development since the Ukrainian war began and no one is covering it
— The_Real_Fly (@The_Real_Fly) June 19, 2022
While the Eastern European NATO countries (especially those in the Baltics) are hoping that Russia will try to force its way through a corridor militarily, Moscow’s reaction is likely to be more asymmetrical. The English-language Russian site “StalkerZone” reports on this:
“For some, the incident was a reason to recall the Suwalki corridor and the prospect of finally resolving the issue by military means. In principle, there is a legal basis for this. The Kaliningrad transit is an integral part of the package of agreements between Lithuania, Russia, and the European Union. After it was guaranteed, Lithuania received ratification of the State Border Treaty. In case of unilateral violation of the transit agreements by Vilnius, the legitimacy of the border is lost, and Moscow gets the right to hold the border wherever it sees fit.”
“But this is still an extreme option. Of course, the risks of a direct clash between Russia and NATO increased significantly yesterday, and there are enough interested parties overseas who, given that Ukraine is not holding out, are trying to increase the risk by throwing the Baltics into the furnace as well. I hope there will be no world war this time, but a war of nerves cannot be avoided.”
Russian analysts assume that Moscow will pull the lever on energy supplies because most Baltic countries are still connected to the Soviet grid. The so-called “BRELL Ring” includes the power grids of northwestern Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Since Lithuania shut down its nuclear power plant in Visaginas under pressure from the EU, it no longer has energy autonomy in the power sector. If Moscow cuts off the juice to the Baltic country, there will be rolling blackouts. At the same time, Moscow has ensured in recent years that Kaliningrad is self-sufficient in electricity.
Lithuania would therefore have to buy electricity from Belarus, which it has so far refused to do (because Minsk wants to build a nuclear power plant 50 kilometers from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius).
The questions that then arise are: Will the Lithuanians inquire in Minsk? And even more, whether Lukashenko will then agree and stab Moscow in the back or whether he will then categorically refuse to supply electricity.
In any case, Lithuania is playing a dangerous game that endangers the stability of the Baltic region. In Vilnius, it must be understood that Moscow will react to this blockade – and, above all, that the reaction (despite the possibility as a result of the trilateral agreement) will not be military. Moreover, the Lithuanian government should also know that Moscow will apply leverage where it hurts people.
Even though the Kremlin has so far shown extreme restraint toward Lithuania (and the other Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia), despite EU requirements, they continue to trample on the minority rights of the Russian population in their countries.