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Russia and NATO member Lithuania clash over Kaliningrad

There is a sign that says “Kaliningrad” above the south station of the major city. Kaliningrad is a small Russian enlave located in the Baltic Sea, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. It is the center of spats between Russia and the NATO member Lithuania.

Harry Engels | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

A new front of tension between Russia and NATO was opened after Lithuania, one of the members of the Western military alliance, banned the transportation of some goods from Russia to Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea.

Russia has vowed to retaliate against what is called “hostile behavior” in Lithuania and warn of “serious” consequences, and NATO members have repeatedly supported the country.

There is a brief guide on what is happening and why it matters Conflict between Russia and Ukraine It rings in the background.

what’s happened?

Lithuania said last week that it would ban the transportation of EU-approved goods from Russia across its territory to the Russian outlyings of Kaliningrad.

The government said the blockade would apply to all EU-approved commodities coming by rail from the mainland, effectively blocking the transportation of metals, coal, construction materials and high-tech products to the Russian seaport.

Lithuania said the decision was made after consultations with the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, and enforced sanctions on Russia following the provocative invasion of Ukraine on February 24. He said he was.

Russia called this move an “unprecedented” and “hostile” act, responding to the former Soviet Republic of Lithuania, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Tuesday, “in the near future, the Karinlingrad region and Lithuania. The rest of the territory of the Soviet Union has not been fully restored through, and Russia reserves the right to take action to protect its national interests. “

What is Kaliningrad?

On April 15, 2022, in Nida, Lithuania, you can see an obsolete border crossing to Russia. Russia’s Kaliningrad Exclave on the Baltic Sea coast, sandwiched between NATO member countries Lithuania and Poland, is the most strategic transportation and trading port on the Baltic Sea coast.

Paulius Peleckis | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Lithuania’s ban on the transportation of some EU-approved goods, announced last Friday and implemented on Saturday, prompted a hoarding in Kaliningrad. The region’s governor, Anton Alikhanov, claimed that Russia would increase the number of freighters transporting goods from St. Petersburg to Exclave for the rest of the year.

What could happen next?

It is unclear how Moscow will react to the Lithuanian movement.

Monday, president Vladimir PutinDmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the move, called the move “illegal” and said “this decision is truly unprecedented.”

“The situation is not serious …. We need a serious and detailed analysis to understand our response,” he added.

Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Issued a statement on Monday “Transportation of passengers and unlicensed goods from the Kaliningrad region to Lithuania continues uninterrupted.”

Lithuania added that it “does not impose unilateral, individual or additional restrictions on transit,” adding that it is consistently implementing EU sanctions.

EU foreign policy director Josep Borrell also supported Lithuania on Monday, saying he was worried about what the retaliation would look like while defending Vilnius’ position. “Sure, I’m always worried about Russia’s retaliation,” Borrell said, but he claimed there was no “blockade.”

“Lithuania is not unilaterally regulated and applies only European Union sanctions,” he said, and the report in Russia that Lithuania is implementing its own sanctions is “pure publicity. “.

Timothy Ash, senior sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, commented on Tuesday that “it is no exaggeration to say that Kaliningrad is strategically essential to Russia,” and said it is certainly the case to defend and maintain it. rice field.

“Russia will certainly react, the only question is what will happen … [and] What can Russia do militarily? “

“A land attack to drive a corridor through Lithuania is a direct attack on Lithuania and triggers the defense of NATO Article 5. Putin knows this-it is a war with NATO. In Ukraine. What is the purpose of? He will also have to launch an attack through Lithuania, extend the supply line and divide the army. “

Ash suggested that Russia could use considerable Navy assets in the Baltic Sea to attempt to implement some sort of tit-for-tat blockade in Lithuanian trade, but with major escalations by both NATO and the EU. Will be considered. “Then it will be a fine border whether it triggers NATO Article 5 defenses,” he said.

When asked on Wednesday whether Russia’s response was diplomatic only or to go further, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said, “The answer is no. It’s not diplomatic, but it’s practical.” Said.

“As for retaliation, currently possible measures are being taken in an inter-sectoral format. Through the diplomatic mission in Moscow, both Lithuania and the EU have been told that such actions are unacceptable and the measures taken. He mentioned the need to change and return. The situation to a legitimate course. “

“Of course, if this were not done, retaliation would be inevitable if this was emphasized at all levels in Moscow.”

Why is it important?

As a result of the war in Ukraine, tensions between Russia and NATO have already risen, and Lithuanian movements could further heighten them and direct NATO countries (and the entire alliance) into direct confrontation with Russia. ..

An important pillar of the NATO alliance is the concept of collective defense: Known as Article 5. This means that if one member is attacked, it is considered an attack on the entire group that all members have promised to protect each other.

NATO is helping Ukraine fight Russia’s aggression, and its members are sending a variety of military equipment and weapons as well as humanitarian aid, but NATO does not want a direct confrontation, so He has repeatedly stated that he will not send troops to the country. Nuclear Russia.

Russia needs to carefully coordinate its response to Lithuania. We know that a direct attack is considered an attack by an organization on all NATO member states.

German Bundeswehr vehicles from the Griffin Barracks arrive at Lithuania’s NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Combat Battalion on February 17, 2022 in Lukla, Lithuania.

Petras Marcus | AFP | Getty Images

On their side, NATO’s allies in Lithuania said they would support the country following the Kremlin threat.

“Lithuania is a member of the NATO Alliance and we support the commitment we have made to the NATO Alliance, including, of course, our commitment to Article 5, which is the foundation of the NATO Alliance.” US State Department spokesman Edward Price said at a daily press conference.

“Lithuania is a solid partner and we support NATO, our allies, and Lithuania,” Price added.

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Russia and NATO member Lithuania clash over Kaliningrad

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