Out in the open and in front of a wire fence guarded by the military, thousands of people gathered last November in the Grodno region, on the border between Belarus and Poland. Were immigrants recently arrived by plane from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan that, pushed by Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime, tried to enter the European Union in any way possible.

The hybrid attack orchestrated by the Belarusian dictator and his eastern ally, Vladimir Putin, was aimed at destabilize the west. But not in any way, but attacking where it hurts the most: the Suwalki corridor, considered the Achilles heel of NATO.

And it is that this strip of land of 96 kilometers named after a nearby town separates the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from Belarus. That makes it the only land crossing linking the Baltic countries with the rest of Europe (and therefore with NATO).

Therefore, if Russia were to occupy that area, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania would be isolated, making it difficult for aid to enter if they arrived. to press the red button of article 5 of collective defense of the Atlantic Treaty. That is precisely the plan that Putin began to develop in 2021 through his favorite puppet, Lukashenko.

In 2021, migrants trapped in Belarus tried to cross into Poland through the closest passage to the corridor

During the migration crisis, people stuck in Belarus could have gone through the multiple border crossings connecting with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. However, most “decided” to cross from Bruzgi, the closest point to the Suwalki corridor, although not necessarily the best connected to the airport, as can be seen on Google Maps. The choice, of course, was not accidental..

[Lukashenko provoca una “catástrofe humanitaria” empujando a miles de inmigrantes ante la UE]

Generating instability in the area was the perfect pretext for Russia to permanently install troops in Belarusmore or less aligned with the European Union until the latter imposed a series of sanctions after the 2020 citizen revolt against Lukashenko that ended in a bloodbath.

Thus, with a military presence in the neighboring country, Putin’s army would have an advantageous position over Suwalki and could block the way before an escalation of tension.

Prelude to World War III

Now, with the noise of the war in Ukraine as a backdrop, NATO’s most sensitive area could become the prelude to a new global conflict.

Above all because Russia has achieved that geographical advantage it was seeking. Since last February, the Kremlin has had troops deployed in Belarus because, as it alleged then, there was instability in the Ukrainian region of Donbas. In addition, at the beginning of the year, Belarus revoked its non-nuclear status, which allows Russia, one of the world’s largest nuclear powers, to place weapons on the territory.

But Belarus is not the only Russian stronghold. Across the corridor Suwalki is Kaliningrad, a territory that was seized by the Red Army from Nazi Germany and became part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution, when it became a geographically separate location from the rest of Russia. Also, in a very important place strategically and militarily.

[Rusia agita el fantasma de la Guerra Mundial para amenazar a Lituania por “bloquear” Kaliningrado]

Not only because it is located south of the Baltic Sea, which guarantees maritime connection and trade throughout the area, but also because it is inserted between NATO countries. That allows Moscow to place weapons at a relatively short striking distance.

Nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad

For this reason, Kaliningrad has always been a heavily militarized region, which was reinforced after the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. The Russian Baltic Fleet is installed there and, on several occasions, important military maneuvers have been carried out. Not only by sea, like those carried out last week at the same time as the NATO Baltops, but also by air.

In 2013 and 21016, for example, Russia conducted nuclear-capable missile tests in Kaliningrad. Some “specific” tests that were repeated a few weeks ago in the midst of the war in Ukraine, as announced by the Russian Defense Ministry. However, Lithuania and Poland, the neighboring countries, have always claimed that those nuclear weapons are stored in the territory.

[La era del rearme nuclear: aumentan los arsenales de todo el mundo por primera vez tras la Guerra Fría]

The truth is that Kaliningrad is a strategic place, but also relatively vulnerable because it is surrounded by NATO member countries. The European Union, in the midst of an economic war against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, has not hesitated to take advantage of it.

A Lithuanian worker inspects freight cars on a train from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Reuters

This Tuesday, Lithuania announced the blockade of goods through its territory to Kaliningrad, as part of the EU sanctions for the war in Ukraine. Some measures that have offended the Russian Government, which has described them as “illegal and unprecedented and that they will lead to “hostile actions with negative consequences on the Lithuanians,” according to Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council.

In this scenario, the Suwalki corridor seems like Russia’s next strategic military target. A move, to say the least, dangerous, since it would force NATO to act to defend the Baltic countries and could spark a Third World War.

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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