The Jamestown Foundation, a well-known Washington-based think tank with an anti-Russian bent, has published a report recommending a NATO invasion of Kaliningrad in the immediate wake of the breakout of any hostilities between Russia and the alliance.
Russia’s westernmost territory in the Baltic Sea has been one of the focal point of tensions between Moscow and the NATO alliance. Earlier this week, a US nuclear-capable B-52 bomber simulated a bombing run near the Russian enclave.
R.D. Hooker Jr., a researcher at the Jamestown Foundation, said dealing with Kaliningrad first is imperative, clarifying that taking the region was key if NATO wants to deprive Russia of local ground and air superiority, and of the Russian Baltic Fleet’s home port.
Hooker notes that “Polish heavy forces, which are based nearby, along with US forces based in Poland are the obvious solutions for this mission.”
Commenting on Hooker’s recommendations, Kaliningrad region governor Anton Alikhanov called the analyst’s report a “tabloid fantasy,” and said he tired of having to “comment on American stupidities.”
Russian ground forces in Kaliningrad (two motor rifle brigades and one tank regiment with artillery) are substantial, but Russian leaders should understand clearly that unprovoked aggression by NATO will come at a high price.
Part of that cost must be losing Kaliningrad, a constant irritant and friction point in peacetime and a crucial strategic fulcrum – for both sides – in wartime.
Last month, the Russian military announced that Russia’s western enclave was fully protected “against any aggressive ‘plans’ developed by US generals” after US media reported on a Pentagon plan to defeat Russian air defenses in the region.
In 2016, President Putin said he believed that “all sober-minded people who really are involved in politics” in the West understand that “the idea of a Russian threat to, for example, the Baltic’s, is complete madness.
In 2017, the RAND Corporation, another US-based think tank with Cold War roots, issued its own report on the prospects of a conflict in Kaliningrad, pondering whether Russia would even treat an attack on the enclave as ‘an attack on the Russian homeland.
Amid the deteriorating relations between NATO and Russia over the last five years, Kaliningrad has become a hot spot of tensions.
Russian and NATO aircraft repeatedly encountered one another over local airspace, with one incident recent seeing a Russian Su-27 fighter literally chase away a Spanish Air Force F-18 after it approached to within several hundred meters of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s passenger jet as it flew over the area.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2019.