Kaliningrad transit: Lithuania refuses to yield

After intensive negotiations, the EU Commission and Lithuania have not been able to agree on a new directive for the control of sanctioned goods on the transit route between Russia and the exclave of Kaliningrad. This means that the second sanction stage for goods traffic came into force on Sunday. Lithuania has restricted transit since the end of June. Commentators advise not to lose their nerve.

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Delfi (LT) /

Buckling would be the greatest danger

Fear is a bad advisor, warns Delfi:

“The Russians did not start a war [against Lithuania] when the savings of their central bank, hundreds of billions of dollars, the mansions and yachts of their leaders and gauleiters were confiscated, but they will now over a bag of cement? Either way, if Russia wants to attack, it is welcome to do so. Lithuania has no alternative but to adhere strictly to the transit restrictions. That is the only pragmatic policy that guarantees our security. Trembling will cause a thousand times greater threat to our security than a ban on transporting cement, metals or even vodka to Kaliningrad. Such trembling only motivates the aggressor.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Don't play into Putin's hands

The EU must clearly back Lithuania, Handelsblatt demands:

“[Otherwise] firstly it runs the risk of angering its members in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, who have been warning for a long time not to make any concessions to Russia's leader Vladimir Putin. ... Secondly, the EU runs the risk of bolstering the external perception of the Kremlin's narrative about an incipient 'blockade' of Kaliningrad by Lithuania. There is de facto no blockade: Russia can still deliver the sanctioned goods by sea, and food and medicine, like many other goods, are not covered by the blockade anyway. Thirdly, the cracks within the EU that are evident here play right into Putin's hands.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Revenge blockade would be counterproductive

The Russian chargé d'affaires in Lithuania has threatened to block EU transit freight traffic through Russia as a countermeasure. Commenting in Kommersant, logistics expert Natalia Skorlygina argues that this would be counterproductive:

“In my opinion, Russia would be shooting itself in the foot by taking the initiative to interrupt transit from China to the EU. ... Russia is the only one who will lose out: maritime transport could easily cope with the measly amount of one million TEUs [standard containers] that go by rail. Especially since shipping prices are now much more affordable than they were a year ago. ... And these freights will be received by those global container shipping companies that withdrew from Russia in March. Moreover, rail transit is a source of foreign currency.”