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After his conquest at the end of the Second World War and throughout the Cold War the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and by extension the Suwalki Runner, it was always present in the military plans of both NATO and the USSR. And today, when Estonia denounces that Russian helicopters have entered its airspace and Lithuania has decided, within the framework of the sanctions approved against Russia, to block the transit by rail of some Russian products to that territory, the temperature does nothing but increase. At the moment Moscow has already threatened Vilnius with “serious consequences & rdquor ;, reinforcing a dynamic that could lead to the opening of a new military front, beyond Ukraine.

At first sight might seem like irrelevant territory, with barely a million inhabitants in its 15,000 square kilometers and some 200 kilometers of coastline, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. But, seen from Russia, Kaliningrad is, above all, a guarantee of access to warm waters, a historic strategic priority for a country that barely has ports in these conditions for much of the year. It is, in addition to being a very important commercial gateway for both Russia and Belarus, a clear military asset, both for its facilities for the Russian Baltic Sea fleet and for its Iskander missile batteries, with nuclear capacity and a little over 400km range. And its weight will only grow for Moscow after the entry of Finland and Sweden into the Atlantic Alliance, which will practically turn the Baltic Sea into a NATO lake.

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In objective terms Kaliningrad is not isolated from Russia, given that direct sea links are still completely open, especially from Saint Petersburg, and land links only affect people and goods that the European Union has decided to sanction. This means that the Russian accusation that Vilnius has violated the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the 2002 Joint Declaration on the transit of goods is baseless, since It has not adopted any unilateral decision apart from what was determined by Brussels. In any case, it is foreseeable that Russia decides to take some kind of retaliation, further increasing air and sea incursions into the waters of allied countries in the region and deploying more military means in the enclave, as well as to be even more assertive in relation to the three Baltic countries, trying to put to the test the will of the Union and NATO to support these countries.

Much more unlikely, however, is that Moscow decides to open a new military front in the area, trying, for example, to control the Suwalki corridor, in Polish territory, that would leave the three Baltic republics unconnected. Such a measure would mean, with Poland as the first affected, a military confrontation with a NATO country; which, together with what could affect the three Baltic countries, would elevate the conflict to a dimension in which Russia cannot rationally be involved. In view of its poor performance in an invasion that, four months after it began, has achieved none of its objectives in Ukraine, Russia has been portrayed as an incompetent military machine, held back by a potentially inferior Ukrainian army in both human and material resources. Under these conditions, opening a new front would mean accepting defeat in the Ukraine and getting bogged down in another tragic misadventure from which it could not emerge victorious either.

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