DIIS report: Kaliningrad Oblast 2024

What do we know about Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast as of early 2024 and what do we make of it?

For a long time, this semi-exclave remained among few Russian regions which enjoyed more civil activity and represented openness despite growing authoritarian pressure in the country.

Over two years after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities claim Kaliningrad Oblast is at the forefront of Russia’s defensive war against the West. It is a bulwark of Kremlin-defined Russianness with its traditional values and militarisation of history. Regional politicians, rather than advocating for the Oblast’s interests, use it as a trampoline to Moscow. Regional economy is being overtaken by federal-level oligarchs and security services.

Most importantly, Kaliningrad Oblast poses a threat to security in the Baltic Sea Region, including the Danish island of Bornholm, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden, as well as critical infrastructure in the area.

If you want to learn more, read the report I prepared for DIIS – Danish Institute for International Studies.

Briefing Silba observers before the 2023 Polish general election

A few days ago, I was happy to run a training session for Silba – Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy Election Observation Mission. We went through the current political situation, main contenders and controversies around the referendum which took place at the same time as elections.

The presence of foreign observers is crucial especially in countries where authorities have employed the state apparatus and public resources to influence the electoral campaign and, ultimately, the election results. Democracy and pluralism need constant care.

Silba EOM released their preliminary report that includes key findings. You can download it here.

Warsaw Security Forum 2023 report is out

Allow me to share the 2023 Warsaw Security Forum Annual Report which I had the pleasure of co-preparing as Lead Analyst of the Foreign Policy Expert Group.

Given the rapidly changing security environment in Europe, we have focused on eight advocacy clauses that seek to increase Western institutional cohesion and resilience in Central and Eastern Europe and in the collective West as a whole:

1. Promoting a better defined, clearer, and more urgent path for Ukraine’s membership in NATO.

2. Striving towards a paradigm shift in defence posture of the Western community.

3. Reviving CEE regional and cross-regional cooperation via formats such as Visegrad Four, Bucharest Nine, the Weimar Triangle, and the Lublin Triangle.

4. Strengthening EU’s foreign policy by creating a coherent European policy on China.

5. Strengthening transatlantic cooperation for energy security and supplies resilience.

6. Driving Ukraine’s energy integration with Europe.

7. Analysing influence operations of adversarial states against CEE and creating common standard capabilities for the region.

8. Strengthening CEE cyber resilience by establishing an organisation that uses telemetry on cyber operations against Ukrainian infrastructure.

In case the link does not work, the report is available here: https://warsawsecurityforum.org/2023wsf-report/

On Kaliningrad Oblast for Lithuanian magazine IQ

‘Since Kaliningrad Oblast is geographically separated from Russia, its situation is complex and completely different from other regions. Especially now [that the ferry connection is responsible for supplying the region] it becomes clear that Kaliningrad will be completely dependent on Saint Petersburg.’

Lithuanian IQ magazine interviewed me about the state of affairs in Kaliningrad Oblast. The title – A military place and nothing more (Karinis miestelis ir nieko daugiau) – is somewhat provocative but gives a good feeling of what the region has become in the last decade.

Thank you, Agnė Baltrūnaitė, for an interesting talk!

See this post on LinkedIn.

On Kaliningrad Oblast for Casimir Pulaski Foundation

In Casimir Pulaski Foundation’s latest policy paper, I argue that Kaliningrad Oblast faces the biggest challenges ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and that these challenges are impossible to overcome under the current circumstances.

It happened so not only because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also because of the events that had led up to it: growing centralisation, ignoring the semi-exclave’s natural needs related to trade and cross-border cooperation, as well as its militarisation.

The Oblast and its inhabitants is have been cut off from main sources of economic growth. Russia will not be able to provide effective and efficient supply lines to make up for it as the Kremlin has different priorities.

As a result, Kaliningrad Oblast has become a besieged fortress that is drifting further away both from Moscow and the West. In the eyes of Russian authorities, it only exists to threaten.

Big thanks to Katarzyna Pisarska and Andrzej Kozłowski for a great cooperation opportunity!