Friday, September 09, 2016

Will Kaliningrad Be Liberated?

If there is a war between Russia and NATO over the Baltic states, I hope that as NATO forces retreat back toward Lithuania and Poland that the conquest of Russia's Kaliningrad exclave is NATO's first ground victory. But would that victory be a liberation rather than conquest?

If this keeps up, with Kaliningrad suffering under Western sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, NATO troops might be greeted with flowers:

The Moscow government speaks of refocusing eastwards on trade with countries like China. But that is small comfort here on Europe's doorstep.

"Cooperation with Australia looks as likely to yield success as the current model at this point in time," gloomily quipped Ilya Shumanov, a former director of Kaliningrad's Transparency International office.

Many locals blame the region's government for not having a plan to support business after the end of the special status regime, beyond relying on government subsidies, set at 66 billion rubles ($1.02 billion) for this year.

But note Ukraine's major mistake with Crimea. Unlike Russia, which depopulated the Germans from Kaliningrad and replaced them with Russians, Ukraine failed to evacuate ethnic Russians from Crimea who provided a plausible source for astro-turfing a revolt there.