Commentary: Lithuania faces Moscow’s wrath for banning transit of Russian sanctioned goods

On Jun 20, Lithuania’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry and told to cancel the restrictions or face the consequences.

A senator on Russia’s upper house – the Federation Council – Andrey Klimov, called on the EU to “correct Vilnius’ impudent little stunt”, while the head of Russia’s security council, Nikolai Patrushev, stated that the “appropriate measures” would have a “serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”.

The heightened tensions between Vilnius and Moscow follow hot on the heels of a discussion in Russia’s State Duma on Jun 8 – the lower house of parliament – about revoking the Soviet Union’s recognition of Lithuania’s independence. By making a stand over transiting goods to Kaliningrad, Lithuania is also highlighting its sovereignty.

TARGETED ACTION AGAINST RUSSIA’S BALTIC THREAT

The deteriorating relationship between Russia and the West after the former’s invasion of the Donbas in 2014 saw Russia deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad in 2016 that could reach the Baltic State capitals and two-thirds of Poland. 

In April 2022, the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet air force ran simulated bombing campaigns in Kaliningrad. With more than 1,000 personnel – and at a time of heightened conflict over Ukraine – this was a big concern for Vilnius.

On Jun 22, the Russian military simulated missile attacks on Estonia, with the Baltic Sea Fleet heavily involved and helicopters violating Estonian airspace. Understandably, the Lithuanian authorities fear being cut off.

The Suwalki Gap is a stretch of land 100 kilometres long, stretching along the Lithuanian and Polish border dividing Belarus from Kaliningrad. The Suwalki Gap has long been NATO’s weak point as Russia could quickly isolate the Baltic States. 

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