Checkmate to the king: Russia made huge geostrategic and political mistakes in the Baltic Sea

(To David Rossi)
22/06/22

Let me paraphrase Rhett Butler and state that, unlike other analysts, I believe that the question of the so-called "Lithuanian block of Kaliningrad" can frankly be ignored. Let's be clear: it is not that it has been somehow magnified, presenting it as a threat to security in Europe that it is not ... On the contrary, because we are staring at the top of an iceberg, which we should look at in its entirety because from the geopolitical and geostrategic point of view it is of colossal proportions. But let's go in order ...

For at least fifteen years, the Kremlin has placed the enlargement of NATO in north-eastern Europe as the first geopolitical concern for Russia and the justification for any revisionist intervention in the political and military framework resulting from the collapse of the Soviet system. Yet, we can blame Vladimir Putin, at the height of years of overt threats to neutral neighbors in the Balto-Scandinavian area, more precisely to Sweden and Finland, for having caused more damage to the north-eastern flank of the Russian military system than a war. lost.

If Finland had been a flexible neighbor of the former USSR, the presence of a state, Sweden, neutral and non-aligned, as well as endowed with a formidable defense system, had never been contested even by Nazi Germany or by the Union. Soviet: it doesn't take long to understand why… In a narrow sea and free from international waters, as is precisely the Baltic, in order to transport goods, but also to be able to project its own power, it is necessary that there is a country selfishly interested only in not being disturbed in its quiet life, which Sweden had been for decades.

If Stockholm is no longer a revolving door, which never denies consent to the transit in both directions of container ships and cruisers, but also of fighters flying towards the North Sea, then the conditions are created for a paralysis of the naval and air forces. . The trade links of the Russian Federation between two oblasts overlooking the Baltic Sea are also affected, namely that of Kaliningrad with the capital of the same name and that of Leningrad with the capital of St. Petersburg, but also and above all from the two oblasts to the rest of the world. It is true: there are Russian ports in the Arctic region, but they are not very easy, often obstructed by the ice but above all they require a crazy circumnavigation of the Scandinavian peninsula.

What about the naval forces that could get stuck in Kaliningrad but above all in St. Petersburg without the possibility of getting out, unless you force what is in fact a self-imposed blockade?

In a context of international sanctions applied to Russia, it seems obvious that every ship can - indeed must! - sooner or later be subject to inspection before or during transit through the territorial waters of NATO countries, such as the Baltics, Poland and Denmark, or countries "bullied" by Russia such as Sweden and Finland. Yes, because it was a real crazy "bullying" ...

Even before Euromaidan and the outbreak of the Donbass war, the Kremlin had strengthened the Kaliningrad base and, with discretion, made it known to the world that it had probably also placed nuclear missiles there; then, as if that were not enough, he had simulated nuclear bombings of Sweden during the Russian exercises in 2013, as well as launching repeated cyber attacks and an endless series of airspace violations with fighter planes and bombers.

Thus, in the aftermath of February 24, that neutral and selfish Sweden which - according to a rational logic - would have served the Russian Federation and served it no more and no less than it did with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he was in terror. Yes, the policy of flexing muscles on neutrals to impress them - also implemented towards Finland and Ireland - in the end had the opposite effect: Russia has made the figure of the jealous man who, in order to punish his wife who is a little too cheerful, I will emasculate… Yes, because of this matter: St. Petersburg, which in the Russian Federation is worth much more than Kaliningrad, is the illustrious victim of all this disaster.

If the coastal countries impose transit blocks or mandatory inspections on Russian ships, what can Moscow do? Inflate your chest and pull straight?

No, it would be a violation of the NATO states or, in the case of Sweden and Finland, of two countries whose security is currently guaranteed directly by Washington and London.

For St. Petersburg, things could go decidedly wrong with the "Great Port" forced to languish due to the impossibility of passing goods unless, in fact, they do not accept inspections.

Returning to Kaliningrad, the problem of this oblast goes far beyond what is read in the newspapers: under current conditions, its inhabitants are unlikely to have heating for the winter and spare parts for strategic infrastructures. Put things like that, Moscow should either impose an airlift or consider moving the population further east.

Finally, what about the Baltic Fleet? If Russia wants to start a conventional war, according to the most recent analyzes its warships on this front could become… submarines, despite themselves, since both Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg would be easy targets from Poland and Finland respectively.

In short, a country of great chess players, such as Russia, finds itself with the king in check by dint of wrong moves. He reacts by threatening, as they had done from the beginning against Sweden and Finland, alienating the advantage of having two neutral neighbors in order to show his swollen chest.

Finally, let's try to frame what we are talking about… The Kaliningrad oblast has an area of ​​15.000 square kilometers, more or less the same as Calabria, but with less than half the population of the southernmost region of the Peninsula. The region has a triangular shape, obviously not perfect, with one side facing the Baltic Sea for 145 kilometers, on the western side, and two sides bordering the European Union. What is often referred to in the Western media as a Russian enclave in Europe is actually one for Moscow exclave, whose capital is 800 kilometers away as the crow flies from St. Petersburg and 500 from its "sister" Minsk. In reality, the distance between the "Russian world", which includes Belarus, and this exclave is about 220 kilometers, those of the A7 motorway - and the nearby railway line - which from the Belarusian border passing through Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, reaches the border of the oblast. Two hundred and twenty kilometers are, to be clear, just over the distance between Milan and Bologna.

The Baltic Sea has a length of about 1.600 kilometers, more or less double that - from a bird's eye view - between Bologna and Reggio Calabria, while the average width is 190 kilometers, approximately the same as the distance between Ostia and Pescara. .

In such a situation, who makes you antagonize everyone? If you think "many enemies, much honor", you are not very honorable, just very foolish.

Photo: web / US Naval Forces Europe-Africa / Kremlin

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