Will the third world war begin here?

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Will Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave in Europe, become the “powder keg” that triggered the third world war?

This has become one of the most worrying issues for the European media.

Lithuania banned the transit of Russian “sensitive goods” to Kaliningrad, which triggered a strong rebound in Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov warned that Lithuania’s practice is “unprecedented” and that Russia will take measures to “make the Baltic States feel pain” to counter it.

As the party that provoked this contradiction, Lithuania pretended to be innocent and claimed that it was implementing the EU sanctions against Russia; On the other hand, the Lithuanian president also made a strong gesture, saying that he was ready to deal with any unfriendly actions by Russia.

As Lithuania’s allies in NATO, the United States, Britain and Germany have expressed their support for the measures taken by Lithuania and called on Russia to treat it calmly. The United States even said that “our commitment to Article V of NATO is unbreakable”.

In the context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, is it really possible for Kaliningrad to trigger a world war?

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After summoning Lithuanian and EU diplomatic representatives to Russia two days ago, Russian domestic public opinion is discussing what means to respond to Lithuania’s “blockade of Kaliningrad”.

On the 23rd, the Russian “viewpoint” published an article entitled “Russia’s response will cause a heavy blow to the economy of Lithuania”. It said that due to the actions of Lithuania, Kaliningrad region was blocked. Some important materials were prevented from being transported from Russia to Kaliningrad.

At the informal level, there has been talk that Lithuania may soon cut off its natural gas supply to this Russian enclave. The region supplies natural gas through the Minsk Vilnius Kaunas Kaliningrad pipeline. How will Russia respond?

The viewpoint newspaper said that at present, Lithuania’s anti Russian action has gone too far. Lithuania described this situation as “implementing the EU sanctions against Russia”, but Moscow believed that it was deliberately imposing stricter restrictions on Russia. Moscow demanded the immediate lifting of illegal restrictions, but Lithuania turned a deaf ear to them.

Therefore, Russia will take retaliatory measures, and its response will not be just diplomatic. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman zaharova has said that at present, Russian departments are already formulating countermeasures. Sergei Kondratyev, deputy director of the Economic Department of the Russian Institute of energy and finance, said that if there were problems with railway and land transportation, it would have to be transported by sea.

However, Kaliningrad faces a more serious risk of energy blockade. If the transmission through the natural gas pipeline is stopped, Russia will timely arrange the transportation of liquefied natural gas to Kaliningrad region. In addition, shipping coal to Kaliningrad is not a problem at all.

Many Russian media said that so far, Moscow has maintained a “relatively benevolent” attitude towards Lithuania. For example, Lithuanian products still appear on Russian shelves. If Russia takes retaliatory sanctions against Lithuania, it will have a real impact on Lithuania’s economy and budget.

Russian media believe that the first thing Moscow can do is to refuse to buy Lithuanian goods and prohibit them from re exporting through other EU countries, so that Lithuanian goods cannot enter the Russian market through neighboring Latvia.

Second, Moscow may ban Lithuania from purchasing sensitive goods from Russia. Moscow may follow the sanctions imposed by Gazprom on Poland and impose sanctions on Lithuanian energy companies. Even if Russian companies want to supply electricity, natural gas or oil to Lithuania, they need permission from the Russian government.

Kondratyev believes that if Moscow reacts weakly under the current circumstances, it may inspire more Eastern European countries to follow suit, and some potential “opponents” also attempt to impose similar restrictions on Russia.

Why is it better for Russia to take countermeasures against Lithuania than for the EU as a whole to take “retaliatory sanctions”? Russian media believe that because the Baltic countries are more difficult to resist the blow in the deterioration of relations with Russia, their economies are still connected with Russia to a large extent, and these countries are one of the weakest economies in the EU.

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Russia’s Pravda newspaper said on the 23rd that the blockade of Kaliningrad by the European Union and Lithuania gave Russia sufficient “reasons to declare war”. The Russian side is discussing the measures taken by the Russian air defense forces to start blocking the airspace of Lithuania. Lithuania is also worried about being “shut down” by Russia.

According to the analysis of the article on the “voice of Germany” website, Russia’s blockade of Lithuania’s airspace will be regarded as a “de facto declaration of war”. Lithuania is a member of NATO, and NATO will have to respond by military means.

Others believe that Russia can first try to occupy the suwauki corridor (between Kaliningrad and Belarus) in order to lift the blockade on the region. But in this case, NATO will have reason to directly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian military expert konutov believes that these measures are more aimed at the outbreak of hostilities than Russia’s response to the Kaliningrad regional trade embargo. At present, Russia has other chips, such as trade sanctions and transit restrictions on goods from the EU and Lithuania. Behind the proposed air blockade against Lithuania, it will only provoke Russia to take military action.

Knutov said that in response to Vilnius’ provocation, Russia and Belarus may impose a blockade on Lithuania, leaving Lithuania completely under blockade in terms of economy.

Leonkov, another Russian military expert, said that Lithuania’s blockade of Kaliningrad “is tantamount to the beginning of NATO aggression against Russia represented by Lithuania”. Lithuania dare not stop Russia from going to Kaliningrad by sea, because this is tantamount to declaring war on Moscow.

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He believed that Russia has many economic means that can affect Lithuania, but it should not take them step by step, but should take them at one time in order to have an impact on Lithuania.

Earlier, Russian media said that Moscow had several other countermeasures against Lithuania: not recognizing Lithuania’s independence; Withdraw from the agreement with EU on Lithuania; Demands that Lithuania return the land of kleipeda occupied by the former Soviet Union; Decouple Lithuania from the Russian energy system.

At present, Russia has announced that it will hold military exercises in Kaliningrad, and the Russian Baltic Fleet will conduct missile and artillery exercises. In terms of the scale of the exercise, about 1000 Russian officers and soldiers and more than 100 weapons and special equipment from missile and artillery units participated in the exercise.

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In response to Russia’s warning, Lithuanian President nowseda said in an exclusive interview with Reuters on the 22nd that Lithuania was ready to suffer some form of retaliation from Russia after the country banned goods subject to EU sanctions from crossing its territory into Kaliningrad.

In this video interview, naosaida said: “we are ready to deal with some unfriendly actions from Russia, including the Brell power system cut-off or other actions.”

Although the three Baltic countries joined the EU more than a decade ago, they still rely on the Russian power system in terms of energy system. Brell system is a power network shared among Russia, Belarus and the Baltic States. However, last year Lithuania installed power transmission equipment with Poland to connect to the European grid.

The Lithuanian side said that this is just to prepare for today’s situation.

Nowseda declared that he did not believe that Russia would challenge Lithuania militarily, because Lithuania, unlike Ukraine, is a member of NATO. In the interview, he once again defended Lithuania’s behavior and stressed that it was a decision at the EU level. “This has nothing to do with the bilateral relations between Russia and Lithuania,” nauseda said

On June 18, Lithuania announced the entry into force of a ban that no longer allows the goods in the EU sanctions list against Russia to be transported to Kaliningrad by rail, including coal, metals, building materials, high-tech products, etc. On the 21st, the head of the Press Department of Kaliningrad state said that Lithuania would expand the scope of transit transport ban from railway transport to road transport.

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Nausaida believed that the European Commission’s explanation of the contents of sanctions to the Russian authorities would be a very good measure to eliminate misunderstandings, which might ease some of the current tensions. The escalation of tensions will not benefit either side.

Obviously, naosaida was also very guilty and worried about making things worse.

The EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy Borrelli once defended Lithuania’s decision, saying that although “always worried about Russian retaliation”, Lithuania was “innocent”. Borrelli said: “Lithuania has not adopted any unilateral state restrictions, and only implements EU sanctions.”

However, Borrelli did not let up on the cancellation of the “ban on Kaliningrad”.

Now Lithuania dares to do so. Of course, there are people behind it.

In response to a reporter’s question on the 21st, US State Department spokesman price said: “We support our NATO allies and we support Lithuania.” He also stressed the commitment of the United States to Article 5 of NATO – an attack on one country will constitute an attack on all countries, which is indestructible. “

Moreover, price also said that the United States welcomes Lithuania and other countries to take “unprecedented economic measures” against Russia with regard to Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. When asked about the Russian statement, price said: “we do not intend to speculate about the tension or bluster of Russia, or even give it extra time to broadcast.”.

There is already a strong sense of provocation.

In addition, British Foreign Secretary trass said on the 22nd through the social media platform: “Britain fully supports Lithuania in preventing the transit of sanctioned goods from Russia in its own country. In the face of Russia’s actions, we must remain strong and challenge these unreasonable threats.”

Germany has also warned Russia not to overreact to the “Freight dispute” leading to Kaliningrad. “We call on Russia not to take any measures in violation of international law,” said Herbert stedt, spokesman for the federal government of Germany

Herbestrett believed that Lithuania took these actions within the framework of EU sanctions against Russia. Only some commodities (about 50 per cent) were affected by sanctions, while no one was. “Therefore, we categorically reject the counter-measures announced by Russia.”

In response to the statements of Lithuania and the United States, earlier on the 22nd, Peskov warned that Russia was discussing retaliatory measures against Lithuania’s prohibition of EU sanctioned goods from entering Russia through Kaliningrad. Peskov did not elaborate on the possible consequences of these measures, and said there was no exact timetable for Moscow’s response.

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Geographically, Kaliningrad is of great strategic value to Russia.

Kaliningrad is an isolated port city: it is located on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, with Poland in the south, Lithuania in the East and Lithuania in the north. There are two main channels between Kaliningrad and Russia. One is railway, which enters Kaliningrad from Russia through Belarus and Lithuania. The other is sea transportation, which starts from St. Petersburg, Russia, crosses the Baltic Sea, and sails nearly 1000 kilometers to Kaliningrad.

As an enclave, Kaliningrad is about 680 miles away from Moscow, the capital of Russia. We have written in detail about how Russia (the former Soviet Union) acquired this enclave.

From a military point of view, Kaliningrad is the only ice free port in the Baltic Sea and an important base for the Russian navy fleet. Its strategic position makes it unnecessary for Russian ships to bypass northern Europe and cross the Arctic Ocean. This is the route adopted by the Baltic Fleet from the port in St. Petersburg.

At the same time, the existence of Kaliningrad means that Russia can station its military forces in the “rear” of NATO. Moreover, if necessary, Russia can also deploy nuclear weapons in the region.

In March this year, Russia ordered its nuclear forces to be on high alert in response to increasing pressure from NATO countries. Deploying short-range or medium-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads there will take less time to strike European targets, which provides Russia with a more confident pre emptive strike capability.

According to insiders, Russia has deployed S-400 air defense missile system and “Iskander missile” ballistic missile system capable of loading nuclear warheads in Kaliningrad state.

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Zhang Hong, from the Russian Institute of Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the new dispute between Russia and NATO countries led by the United States over Kaliningrad has indeed raised some concerns. Especially in the current situation where the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still tense, the new contradictions between Russia and NATO are superimposed on the old ones, which makes everyone feel that the situation is difficult to estimate and control. However, direct war between the two sides is unlikely.

Zhang Hong believes that Lithuania forbids the transit of some Russian goods to Kaliningrad, which is actually one of the contents of EU sanctions against Russia. Since the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the European Union has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia. Kaliningrad was exempted from the fifth round of sanctions, but there was no exemption from the sixth round of sanctions announced in early June.

Therefore, the Lithuanian side stressed that this is not its own individual sanctions action, but to implement the EU sanctions measures, and specially consulted the European Commission before the announcement.

At present, the goods affected by the ban are mainly coal, metals, building materials and advanced technology related goods, while other passengers and goods not subject to EU sanctions are not affected. Among the embargoed goods, cement and steel have the greatest impact on Kaliningrad. After being banned, there will be some difficulties in the short term.

However, the governor of Kaliningrad, Anton alikhanov, has also said that goods prohibited from passing through Lithuania will be transported by sea. Russia has also increased the frequency of sea freight from Leningrad to Kaliningrad. Since Kaliningrad has a population of only 1million, the annual volume of goods transported by rail with Russia is not too large. On the whole, difficulties are not insurmountable.

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Compared with the economic losses, the Russian side regards this move as a provocation and diplomatic contempt for Russia, a threat and obstruction to its normal economic activities with Kaliningrad, so the response is very strong. Russia’s response, on the one hand, is to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents. On the other hand, it is also to win the exemption status for Kaliningrad in the EU sanctions against Russia.

Zhang Hong believes that although some people in Russia have made military proposals, it is unlikely that Russia will take real military action and take further confrontation action with NATO. Russia does not want to have a direct conflict with NATO, either in terms of will or ability. After the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, there was a tacit understanding between Russia and NATO that there would be no direct conflict or nuclear war between the two sides.

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From the perspective of the United States, as the leader of the Western alliance and NATO, it will certainly reaffirm its obligations to Member States in this case, so as to maintain the stability of the Western alliance and the reliability of NATO Security mutual trust. However, no matter from the perspective of the United States, the European Union or Lithuania, they all hope that this matter is a friction within the scope of controllable sanctions and anti sanctions, containment and anti containment, rather than a hot war.

Moreover, the EU’s response was more moderate, and even showed willingness to communicate and dialogue with Russia. Because the EU obviously does not want to continue to intensify tensions with Russia and create new troubles and contradictions in the atmosphere of the current Russia Ukraine conflict. On the contrary, the EU’s attitude makes it possible for the two sides to resolve conflicts through diplomatic means.

In addition, Kaliningrad is an “enclave”, which is relatively special. During the process of the three Baltic countries’ accession to the EU, the EU and Russia once had a bilateral agreement, promising to provide corresponding facilities for personnel circulation and commodity transportation between Russia and Kaliningrad. From this point of view, there is a possibility of diplomatic solution to the contradictions between the two sides around Kaliningrad.

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