Most are unaware of the Lithuanian blockade preventing the flow of goods into Kaliningrad. Fewer still understand the significance of this strategic area, a small plot of land that may very well touch off a world war between Russia and her allies and NATO.
What is the key to understanding the gravity of the Lithuanian blockade and Kaliningrad’s strategic importance to Russia?
Kaliningrad is the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet.
Just what is Kaliningrad?
Basically, it is a 160-square mile plot of land called an oblast by Russia, a word that translates roughly into “province.” It sits between Lithuania and Poland. It is accessible by land via an avenue known as the Suwalki Gap, a narrow corridor extending about 50 miles from the Russian forces stationed in the nation of Belarus and the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, which is situated on the Baltic Sea coast.
Kaliningrad was originally the 13th-century city of Konigsberg, the capital of the German province of East Prussia up until 1945. After World War II ended, the Soviet Union took it over, and it was made into a Soviet province. Currently, about 500,000 people live there. Ethnically, it is 78% Russian and 8% Belorussian. The remainder is mostly made up of other Eastern Europeans whose nations were once part of the Soviet Union. The remaining Germans were forced out by 1949.
What are the politics surrounding Kaliningrad?
The German government has relinquished any claim to it. However, Lithuania and Poland have been “jockeying” to take it over since the (first) Cold War ended in the 1990s.
Most of those on the “Brandon Bandwagon” cite media reports claiming “Kaliningrad is occupied by Russia” and that it’s not really theirs. They also parrot the absurdity that “Lithuania has the right to restrict goods into it” because they’re NATO. They claim such actions are justified because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
They conveniently forget that Guantanamo Bay is the only US base on the soil of a Communist nation…Cuba. We’re certainly not going to “relinquish” our base.
They also forget that the USSR blocked off the city of Berlin (the infamous “Berlin Blockade” that lasted 323 days). Most have ignored the fact that President Truman airlifted food to the Berliners nonstop during this period from 1948 to 1949.
The Kaliningrad Blockade
On June 18, 2022, Lithuania halted all rail movements of goods along the Suwalki Gap and into Kaliningrad and further imposed EU “sanctions” on materials permitted to enter the Russian province.
The Russians are not completely isolated in this matter. The president of Belorussia, Alexander Lukashenko, said this to the press at RIA Novosti:
“We are very concerned by the situation and the policy being pursued by our neighbors. You know, in general terms: this is the leadership of Poland and the leadership of Lithuania…with Lithuania…there is a growing flow of information about their plan to suspend transit from Russia through Belarus to Kaliningrad, to isolate Kaliningrad. Well, listen, that’s akin to a declaration of war! That sort of thing is unacceptable in the current conditions.”
Lukashenko met with Vladimir Putin on June 24 to talk about the current situation. Putin assured the Belorussian president that Russia would send its ally weapons to help counter what both leaders see as an encroachment by NATO and an attempt to completely cut off Kaliningrad.
The bottom line? Putin told Lukashenko that Russia would provide Belorussia with Iskander missiles and nuclear warheads for them.
The potential line in the sand? The blockade also cuts off the oil pipeline running from Russia to Kaliningrad.
The ban is not just by rail but also restricts trucks and aircraft from entering the Russian province.
A strike on one is a strike on all…
As Lithuania is a member of NATO, any aggression against it by Russia would violate Article 5 of the NATO treaty and put all of NATO into immediate conflict with Russia. It is simple to see from all of this how large a “powder-keg” this is, and it wouldn’t take much to set it off. Now let’s examine more of the strategic considerations here.
Not only is Kaliningrad the only ice-free Baltic Sea port and home to the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet, but there is a tremendous troop presence there, along with missiles and other equipment. The province holds Iskander missiles, and recently the Russians have moved nuclear warheads to the missile bases that can be fitted to them.
After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1992, Poland and the other Baltic states joined NATO, and Kaliningrad was transformed into a “pocket of isolation” from the Russian Federation. It is in a critical strategic location regarding electronic surveillance, missile forces, and the deployment of ground troops from Russia into Europe.
It also serves as a defensive position for Russia to prevent incursions into the region by air and sea. The Russian 11th Army Corps is the command structure for the province, and it holds Motorized Rifle Divisions (infantry), as well as commanding mechanized and armored (tank) units. The 336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade is the naval infantry unit assigned to the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet. Let’s return to that original sentence I wrote earlier:
Kaliningrad is the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet.
Let that sink in to grasp the vital, strategic importance of the area, and it is not “unprecedented,” either.
In 2014, the Russians “annexed” (a polite/politically-correct word for “conquered”) Crimea, in Ukraine.
Why? Because of Sevastopol.
Sevastopol is the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
As it was then, so it is now, and more. Kaliningrad is vital to the Russian military, and in Russian eyes, it cannot be allowed to be taken over. It enables Russia to forgo the use of a “bypass route” using the Arctic Ocean and going around the Scandinavian nations. The missiles there also give Russia a “first-strike” potential against NATO.
Keep in mind: Russian military doctrine embraces a first-strike action if it (the State) feels “threatened” or “justified.” For more on this mindset, I strongly recommend any of Viktor Suvorov’s(pseudonym for Vladimir B. Rezun) works, such as Inside the Soviet Army or Spetsnaz. Although the technology has improved, the doctrine of the Soviet Motorized Rifle Regiment holds true today, as well as the “Friday Night Offensive,”both of which are subjects too large for the scope of this article.
(Placed in a survival situation by an EMP? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the lights go out.)
Additionally, there is the large Russian population to take into consideration.
There were attacks and atrocities committed against the eastern separatist provinces in the Donbass area of Eastern Ukraine. These are areas with 90 to 95% of their populations being ethnically and linguistically Russian. The same holds true here in Kaliningrad. The Russians are not going to take this blockade lightly, and they could very well use it as their “justification” to start a war. Once again: in Russian eyes, they would view starting it as a means of preventing an attack on their territory later.
Flawed viewpoint? First, let’s consider this: Hitler and Stalin signed a pact, and then Hitler initiated Operation Barbarossa and attacked Russia by surprise and without warning.
The Russians lost upwards of 20 million people in World War II: that is their mindset now…a beleaguered nation beset by NATO, their former Cold War enemies.
To make matters worse? When the Russian ambassador and his entourage were laying wreaths on the monuments to Russian soldiers in Warsaw this year, they were barraged with balloons filled with red paint. It might seem a small thing, but not if it was done to you or yours.
Let’s go a little deeper. What if the same type of thing…this blockade…happened in the United States? What if one of our seaports was blockaded by a naval armada and cut off from all markets in Europe? What if the intention was to “starve” out that seaport and eventually conquer it?
The thing about it is this: it already happened.
The Battle of Baltimore
From September 12 to 15, 1814, the British Navy blockaded the city of Baltimore during the War of 1812. They wanted to cut off all of our trade with France, land troops (which they did), and overtake the city. The result: we won the battle, and our National Anthem was born…right there in Baltimore’s harbor, on board a British ship.
I’m not justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead, I have written (in prior articles, as well) how, with the “strong-arm tactics” of sanctions (economics) and military might (NATO troop deployments), the Western nations are trying to surround and nullify Russia’s capabilities in the march toward a Global Government, and a “New World Order”/World Totalitarian State.
Incrementally, the West is pushing Russia’s “buttons,” and it will not be long before they start pushing buttons of their own in response.
Regarding the blockade by Lithuania, here is a statement from Dmitry Peskov, who is Putin’s spokesman:
“We are analyzing this situation in a most serious way. Via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are delivering our position to our opponents.
In this situation, we are absolutely right. Regretfully, they [Lithuania] are not our partners any longer. They are our opponents now.”
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and the situation can be defused through diplomacy. However, a peaceful solution is appearing more and more doubtful as both sides continue to amass troops, materials, and missiles. Kaliningrad is a “hot spot” that can escalate into a nuclear war, and in such a scenario, there will be no winners.
The saddest part of all of it? If it should happen, the ones who initiated it will be safe within their fully-stocked bunkers, created and supplied by tax-monies…while the ones who paid those taxes will be left outside to die. Keep fighting that good fight, and take care of one another.
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What are your thoughts?
Will this be the factor that draws Europe fully into the conflict, and then the United States? Or is this just another thing happening “over there?” Share your opinions on the blockade of Kaliningrad in the comments.
About Jeremiah Johnson
Jeremiah Johnson is the nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith and a Master Herbalist. He graduated from the Special Forces course at SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) School, and is an expert in small unit tactics, survival, and disaster-preparedness. He lives in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.