Saturday, December 12, 2015

Objective: Kaliningrad

Yes, Russia's Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania is a potential problem for NATO access to the Baltic Sea to support Baltic state NATO members, plus Sweden and Finland. But the obvious solution is to capture Kaliningrad.

Sure, this is a problem:

There is a “significant amount of capability” in Kaliningrad, including anti-ship weapons, air defenses, and electronic warfare equipment, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said Wednesday.

“They could make it very difficult for any of us to get up into the Baltic Sea if we needed to in a contingency,” Hodges said in a briefing at the Pentagon.

Russia's army is far away and if I understand it correctly, Russia keeps just 3 brigades in Kaliningrad. Russia's brigades are smaller and less capable than ours.

If Germany can't concentrate enough troops to beat the Russians there while we react further east and north, why is Germany even a NATO ally?

I've waffled a bit on whether we should contain Kaliningrad or take it, but I've come down firmly on the capture it side. We will need to control the Baltic Sea to fight for the Baltic states, so Kaliningrad has to go.

And it is a nice bargaining chip, too. Which means that a NATO counter-offensive into the Baltic states doesn't need to liberate every piece of land during a war as long as we can threaten to keep Kaliningrad in the peace (or ceasefire) talks should Russia not agree to the status quo ante, territory-wise.

UPDATE: And Russia faces the loss of their ability to blackmail the Baltic states with energy stoppages and a future where NATO can cut off Kaliningrad's power:

When Lithuania inaugurates two electrical links to the West on Monday, it will launch a process that will reduce its reliance on Russian electricity, and one day could make Russia dependent on the Baltic grids. ...

Moscow is not so concerned about the links as such, but the country's eventual integration into the European grid and what that will mean for Kaliningrad, the small, heavily militarised Russian region along the Baltic coast wedged between Poland and Lithuania. ...

That is because electricity grids are much like a symphony -– they need a conductor to be in harmony. As long as Lithuania remains synchronised to the Russian grid, Moscow can easily supply electricity to Kaliningrad.

It will be a better world when we focus more on what we can do to a hostile Russia and less on what they can do to us.