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Vladimir Putin's major blunder hands NATO huge advantage over Russia in key Baltic region

Vladimir Putin has seriously weakened Russia’s strategic military position in the Baltics, while boosting NATO’s – a top EU diplomat told the Express.co.uk

The Suwalki Gap is a 60-mile stretch of land that connects Belarus to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

The enclave is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet and multiple air bases, as well an Iskander-M missile system – whose nuclear warheads are capable of hitting targets 310miles away.

The corridor is part of NATO territory, a source of considerable irritation to the Kremlin.

If Russia were to seize the corridor it would provide them with a direct land connection with Kaliningrad via Belarus, its staunch ally.

It would also cut off the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia from the rest of Europe, leaving them vulnerable to future Russian attack.

Over the last few weeks, Moscow has accused Vilnius of direct links to a “saboteur” who crossed into Russia from Lithuania.

Belarus has also claimed that Lithuania is allowing its territory to be used for the launch of drone attacks on Minsk by anti-Lukashenko activists.

Both charges have been strenuously denied by Vilnius. But the question arises whether Russia and Belarus are attempting to manufacture a pretext to launch a land grab of the corridor – potentially sparking off a major conflict.

Linas Linkevičius, Lithuania’s ambassador to Sweden, told Express.co.uk that Putin had seriously undermined Russia’s position in the region – making an attack on Suwalki Gap less likely, as well as seriously compromising Kaliningrad’s security.

He explained: “The problem on the ground will remain. But after the accession of Sweden and Finland (to NATO), we have really much better opportunities to be supported from the sea. And this opening provides better opportunities for reinforcement, for deployment, for logistic routes.

“So it is not just ground connections which are important, but also from the sea and the Baltic sea is becoming NATO’s ‘inner lake’ thanks to the geopolitical achievements of Putin.”

“This is strategically changing the situation. And now the problem is for Kaliningrad itself, not for us,” he continued.

“If some active military actions will start, Kaliningrad will suffer first and this will be a very vulnerable spot of the land, not us. And this should be understood by them quite clearly.”

Both Sweden and Finland decided to become full members of NATO following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

NATO has carried out some of its largest post-Cold War military exercise around the corridor, in a sign of its strategic importance.

Experts have predicted that it is precisely here where any shootout between the West and Russia could start in the future.


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