Paul Goble: Kaliningrad is Why Moscow Must Control Minsk, Russian Commentator Says

Staunton, August 30 – Many commentators have focused on the geopolitics of the Belarusian situation, on the extent to which Moscow requires a friendly regime in Belarus to project power into central Europe and the West and on the way in which the coming of a pro-Western regime in Belarus would push Russia further east. Those are certainly reasonable judgments, but they are longer-term and more global than the calculations Moscow is likely making. Instead, as Moscow commentator Vadim Avva says, if Russia were to lose the battle for Minsk, Moscow would “automatically hand over Kaliningrad to the enemy” (svpressa.ru/politic/article/274613/). The only land routes from the Russian Federation proper to the exclave of Kaliningrad lie either through Lithuania, a NATO member, or through Belarus. The exclave can be supplied by sea and by air, but moving heavy weapons and materiel there by those means is both

prohibitively expensive and time consuming. Moscow currently counts on being able to ship such military supplies to and from Kaliningrad via Belarus. Were the government in Belarus to turn radically away from Russia, Moscow would lose more than Belarus. It almost certainly would rapidly lose its position in Kaliningrad which many there would like to see become a fourth Baltic republic. That means that as Moscow calculates its next moves in Belarus, it will be factoring in the Kaliningrad dimension and likely taking steps to ensure that it does not face the rise of a regionalist movement there. That Kaliningrad is part of Russian thinking, as Avva suggests, is beyond question. It should be part of Western thinking about what is going on as well.

source: window on eurasia

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