(RightWing.org) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has been increasingly isolated since he launched his unprovoked attack on Ukraine almost two years ago. That hasn’t stopped him from visiting an island of Russian territory sandwiched between two NATO member states. His recent unannounced trip to Kaliningrad was a reminder that Russia has turned the territory into a nuclear bastion.
On January 25, Putin made a rare trip outside the borders of Russia, flying from Moscow to the Kaliningrad Oblast. This region is a Russian enclave centered around the city of Kaliningrad, which until 1945 was the German city of Königsberg. Now it’s Russian territory on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania.
A narrow strip of Polish territory less than 40 miles wide, known as the Suwalki Gap, is all that separates Kaliningrad from Russia’s ally Belarus — and Putin has turned the enclave into an armed camp. The Russian Baltic Fleet’s main base is in the enclave, along with the 11th Army Corps, 336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (equivalent to our Marines), and an aviation division, which is roughly the size of three US Air Force wings.
Worst of all, there’s an artillery brigade with launchers for nuclear-capable SS-26 short-range ballistic missiles — and from Kaliningrad, these missiles can hit anywhere in Lithuania or Latvia, parts of Estonia, most of Poland, and even reach into eastern Germany.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Putin’s visit was a warning to the West, saying “This is not a message to NATO countries when the president visits the regions of the Russian Federation.” That’s probably true — but, with German intelligence agencies suggesting Putin has a plan to seize the Suwalki Gap and split the Baltic states from the rest of NATO, it’s still worrying that the Russian strongman is paying attention to a region that would be a key part of that plan.
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