New East-West Tensions Leave Kaliningrad Out in the Cold

Staunton, October 31 – The situation of Kaliningrad, the non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation, has long been “a headache” for the Kremlin, but the recent rise in East-West tensions has so exacerbated the problems of that region that this week Vladimir Putin convened a meeting to discuss what should be done.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta journalist Aleksandr Rabushev, Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev reported that Putin had told the government to “accelerate the adoption of laws for the support of the region” and its currently hard-pressed industries.

But it remains unclear whether Moscow will do so and whether, even if it does, the Russian government will be able to overcome not only the problems that it has faced in Kaliningrad since 1991 but also the problems political as well as economic that it faces now as a result of new East-West tensions.

The collapse of the USSR transformed what had been “a major military advance post of the country into a semi-enclave,” Rabushev says, but “the local authorities and the federal Center did not immediately recognize all the aspects of this geopolitical transformation” or take effective steps to meet it.

After 1991, transit through Lithuania became more difficult, the size of the military garrison in Kaliningrad declined, and the economic crisis in the enclave in the 1990s turned out to be twice as serious as in the Russian Federation as a whole, with production falling in Kaliningrad by 1998 to only 29 percent of what it had been in 1990.

New East-West tensions suggest that the situation in the enclave, which had somewhat stabilized over the last decade, is about to deteriorate further. The Baltic countries have announced that they plan to exit “the unified energy system of Russia” by 2020. Together with the closure of an energy plant in …read more

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