(Opinion) Moscow and Brussels have hashed out a deal to lift the June 17 block on Russian goods transiting to the region through Lithuania, Izvestia reported recently, citing E.U. officials.
Vilnius barred the delivery of several goods via its territory nearly a month ago, citing Russian sanctions.
Approximately 50% of all cargo headed to Kaliningrad is shipped there from Russia via Belarus, then Lithuania.
The European Commission’s clarification that Lithuania’s sanctions on Russia shouldn’t be interpreted as a green light for blockading Kaliningrad strongly suggests that the bloc is uncomfortable with the destabilizing influence that the U.S. is suspected of exerting over that Baltic country.
Vilnius’ unilateral interpretation of these prior restrictions as the pretext for cutting off road and rail connections with that Russian exclave was more of a Washington-orchestrated political provocation aimed at manipulating the minds of Westerners than an attempt to worsen the living standards of that region’s people as the author explained at the time here.
Its decision to go along with Brussels in this respect is, therefore a defeat for that declining unipolar hegemon and an unexpected one at that.
The U.S. successfully reasserted its hegemony over the E.U. on an anti-Russian pretext upon the commencement of Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine, even getting its European vassals to counterproductively sanction their top supplier of raw resources and thus triggering an absolutely avoidable economic crisis that brought the euro to parity with the dollar for the first time in two decades.
If some European companies end up going out of business in the coming future, then their American and British competitors would benefit. All told, the U.S. has almost total control over the E.U. at the moment, but it finally overstepped by getting Lithuania to blockade Kaliningrad and thus provoking a major crisis between Russia and the bloc.
That was too much for the “Big Three” (France, Germany, and Italy), which swiftly intervened through European institutions to reassert their own much more direct hegemony over that Baltic country by clarifying that its sanctions can’t be exploited to cut off the transit of civilian products to the Russian exclave by rail.
Even though Lithuania is an American vassal state, it’s much more a European one when push comes to shove like it recently did. Vilnius couldn’t defy the European Commission, so it complied with its policy clarification and thus went against Washington’s will.
This happened because the “Big Three” considered it unacceptable to provoke Russia in such a brazen way, which speaks to their comparatively more pragmatic stance towards the Ukrainian Conflict.
Nevertheless, no one should fall under the false assumption that this development implies a trans-Atlantic rift between the E.U. and the U.S. since nothing of the sort is unfolding.
Rather, what happened was that the E.U. unexpectedly pushed back against the U.S. after the latter overstepped by provoking a major crisis between Russia and the bloc through its exploitation of Lithuania to that end.
This shows that America’s largest European vassals will accept almost anything their overlord demands of them except if it risks sparking a direct conflict with Russia in the worst-case scenario.
Some feared Lithuania’s US-orchestrated blockade of Kaliningrad threatened to do. In such instances, the “Big Three” proved that they had the political will to decisively intervene against Washington’s wishes.
There are five takeaways from this incident. First, the U.S. will exploit its smallest and most Russophobic E.U. vassals to provoke a crisis between Russia and the bloc.
Second, if the crisis is considered by policymakers in the “Big Three” to risk a direct conflict with Russia in the worst-case scenario, then they’ll decisively intervene to avert it.
Third, this intervention takes the form of reasserting their own hegemony over whichever U.S. vassal was exploited to provoke the crisis. Fourth, the U.S. isn’t expected to feud with the E.U. whenever this happens since doing so risks splitting the bloc’s unity and thus weakening the larger platform that it’s exploited to “contain” Russia.
And finally, these unexpected differences between the E.U. and U.S. shouldn’t be interpreted as implying a rift between them.