Could Kaliningrad spark a spiral of doom between Russia and the West?
Like a zombie from the graveyard of past European strife, the region has risen again to sow discord
The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, known until 1946 by its German name, Koenigsberg, is a microcosm of all that’s ever gone wrong in Europe. So it’s hardly surprising this strip of land by the Baltic Sea has become the latest flashpoint in the wider conflict between Moscow and the West.
The clash was probably inevitable. Kaliningrad is a part of Russia implausibly wedged between Lithuania and Poland, countries that belong to the EU and Nato. Rail links between mainland Russia and the exclave must go through Lithuania, which has started enforcing EU sanctions against Moscow. That means blocking Russian trains that carry restricted freight such as coal, steel and kit containing certain technologies.
This amounts to a “blockade”, said the Kremlin. Unsurprisingly, it’s threatening dire, but as yet vague consequences. Kaliningrad is certainly armed to the teeth. It’s home to Russia’s Baltic fleet as well as ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads (Moscow hasn’t confirmed whether they actually do). ..