The Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave of Russia nestled between Poland and Lithuania but unconnected by land to greater Russia itself, is causing growing unease to its European neighbours. Two countries accuse Russia of militarising the area formerly part of East Prussia.
The recent reported arrival of short-range ballistic missiles in the area has prompted the reassessment of border defences by Poland and Lithuania. Both have watched as Russia calmly annexed the east of Ukraine with minimal consequences from the international community last year. Concerned by the potential for the ‘Stone’ missiles to receive low-yield nuclear warheads, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė warned last month the new arsenal has sufficient striking range to reach Berlin, reports The Guardian.
Responding to the perceived threat of military incursion from the Oblast, Poland is now using funding acquired from the European Union’s border force to build a network of 50-metre (165 ft) tall watch towers along the border. Although the towers, due to go live in June, will be unmanned, they will house cameras streaming live footage to Polish border police on the ground.
The Oblast itself is a historical and geographical anomaly dating back to Soviet territorial holdings at the end of 1945, which it retained after the Cold War. The presence of the Oblast, or exclave, which is one of the fastest growing economic areas of the Russian Federation, has long been a concern for strategic planners in Europe. It houses its own army group and is the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic fleet, which is responsible for the constant traffic of major warships in and around the territorial waters of Northern European states and the United Kingdom.