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Lithuania's Brinkmanship

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Kaliningrad row: Lithuania accuses Russia of lying about rail 'blockade'
Kaliningrad row: Lithuania accuses Russia of lying about rail 'blockade'
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On June 18, the government of Lithuania acted on a decision by the European Commission, that goods and cargo subject to European Union sanctions could be prohibited from transiting between one part of Russia to another, so long as they passed through E.U. territory.

Almost immediately, Lithuania moved to block Russia from shipping certain categories of goods and materials by rail to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, encompassing the former East Prussian Baltic port city of Konigsberg and its surrounding environs. They were absorbed into Russia proper as a form of war reparations at the end of the Second World War.

Lithuania cited its legal obligation as an E.U. member to enforce E.U. sanctions targeting Russia. Russia, citing a 2002 treaty with Lithuania which ostensibly prohibits such an action, has called the Lithuanian move a blockade and has threatened a military response.

Lithuania, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is afforded the collective security guarantees spelled out in Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which stipulate that an attack against one member is an attack against all.

Through its actions, Lithuania risked bringing Russia and NATO to the brink of armed conflict, the consequences of which could be dire for the entire world, given the respective nuclear arsenals of the two sides.

From the moment Russia initiated its so-called "Special Military Operation" in Ukraine, the nations that comprise NATO have been engaged in a delicate dance around the issue of how to support Ukraine and punish Russia without crossing the line of committing an overt act of war that could prompt Russia to respond militarily, thereby triggering a series of cause-effect actions that could lead to a general European conflict, and perhaps World War III.

In retrospect, the early debates in the European halls of power about whether to provide Ukraine with heavy weaponry seem almost innocent when compared to the massive infusion of weaponry that is taking place today.

Even Russia has softened its hardline stance going in, where it had threatened 'unimaginable consequences' for any nation that interfered with its military operation in Ukraine.

Today the situation has evolved to the point where NATO is engaged in a de facto proxy conflict with Russia on Ukrainian soil which is designed, frankly speaking, to kill as many Russian soldiers as possible.

Russian Objectives

Russia, for its part, has adapted its posture into one that is designed to absorb these NATO-linked blows while pursuing its stated military and political objectives in Ukraine with a single-minded purpose.

Ukraine has used NATO-provided weapons and NATO-provided intelligence to lethal effect on the battlefield, killing several Russian generals, sinking the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and killing and wounding thousands of Russian soldiers, while destroying hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles and pieces of military equipment.

The relative restraint of the Russian approach is evident when contrasted with the hysteria of the United States, during its two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian general who oversaw an Iraqi resistance against the U.S. occupation of Iraq in the mid-2000's, that was purportedly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. servicemen, was assassinated by the U.S. government more than a decade after his alleged activities. And it was only a year ago that the U.S. media was in an uproar over allegations (subsequently proven false) that Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)

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