Amid the prolonged war in Ukraine, the international community’s attention is focused on Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea coast.
Kaliningrad, which is a Russian territory and remote from the mainland, has an area of 15,100 square kilometers, slightly smaller than Gangwon-do (16,875 square kilometers), and has a population of 1 million. The biggest reason why this small piece of land is attracting attention is because of its geopolitical and strategic importance.
According to foreign media on the 21st (local time), Kaliningrad shares borders with Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east. It is 400 km away from the Baltic Sea to the west and the nearest mainland of Russia to the east. The distance between Kaliningrad and Moscow is 1300 km.
Kaliningrad was originally part of Germany, but in 1945 the Soviet Union overthrew the Nazis and took possession of the area.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kaliningrad became a land island. This is because Belarus and Lithuania became states when they became independent from the Soviet Union. The land route between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia disappeared.
In particular, as neighboring countries such as Poland and Lithuania joined the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Kaliningrad became completely isolated without land. This means that Russia cannot go to Kaliningrad without going through another country.
An agreement between Russia and the EU allowed cargo to be transported to Kaliningrad via Lithuania from 2003 onwards, but the situation changed dramatically when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. As part of the EU sanctions against Russia, it has restricted the intra-regional transport of Russian goods.
Russia is outraged by this. Kremlin spokeswoman Dmitry Peskov strongly criticized the EU and others, saying it was “unprecedented illegality”.
Above all, Kaliningrad is an immovable port that does not freeze all year round, and was also the base of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet. Even Russian nuclear weapons are said to have been deployed.
Some point out that the ‘Subauki Corridor’, which is about 70km long bordering the pro-Russian state Belarus from Kaliningrad, is considered the most dangerous place on earth.
If Russia attacks Poland or Lithuania to take over the region, the 30 NATO member states will take a joint response in principle. If this happens, the possibility of an all-out war between the West and Russia is high. Furthermore, World War III could happen.
However, the West, including the United States, may decide that the cost of the war is not worth it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also expected to launch an attack on the region based on these calculations, US political media outlet Politico analyzed.
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