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A sanction, provocation, or testing option?

The exclave of Kaliningrad, encircled by EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland, is strategically crucial for Russia.

Escalating tensions and confrontations between the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on one side and Russia on the other side got a new remarkable push with NATO and EU member Lithuania's decision to restrict freight traffic from Russia to its exclave of Kaliningrad. Lithuania agued it is enforcing EU sanctions against Russia and the EU for itself meant Lithuania is right and officially supported Lithuania.

 Traffic congestion at the Russia - Lithuania border. Photo: AP

In reality, both Lithuania and the EU violated international law inhabitated in their 2002 agreement with Russia which paved the way for Lithuania to join the EU. But in light of the ongoing battle in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine and the present catastrophic state of the relationship between Russia and the West - that means EU, NATO, the US, and their allies -, international law has very little to say. EU and Lithuania accused Russia of having broken international law with its "special military operation" in Ukraine. But now, they used violating international law in their conflict with Russia.

The exclave of Kaliningrad, encircled by EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland, is strategically crucial for Russia. That is why Russia hasn't any other alternative but very strong, even powerful retaliations against Lithuania. This country and the EU must have taken Russia's unprecedented reactions into account before Lithuania blockaded Russia's transit traffic to Kaliningrad. There is so much at stake that Lithuania couldn't have decided alone and that it must have been the intention of the EU and NATO, too.

They exacerbated their sanctions against Russia and created more difficulties and challenges for Russia in the hope of weakening Russia so that it would be impossible for Russia to win the battle in Ukraine. But they have provocative Russia by opening a new front line against Russia. Furthermore, they might intend to test how Russia would react to the possibility of confrontation with one NATO member. In their present perception, Russia couldn't afford to have a military confrontation with NATO so they don't care much about the theoretically possible scenario in which Russia secured its transit way through Lithuania by military forces. They still believe that nuclear deterrence is still intact in Europe so that no side would be the first to use nuclear weapons.

But whatever their aims were - sanctions, provocations, testing options, or all together -, the consequences will be very dangerous for Europe's security. The risk is real and high that things might be going out of both sides' control. And if all restraints of both sides were thrown out, there would be not merely a catastrophe but the hell in Europe.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Ambassador Tran Duc Mau are of his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Hanoi Times.