(Belarus/Russia) The Belarus Factor in Kaliningrad’s Security Lifeline to Russia (Sergey Sukhankin, The Jamestown Foundation)

Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, security ties between the Republic of Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast exclave remain linked in important ways, even as economic, transit and energy infrastructure connections have withered away over time. But since the disputed August 9, 2020, Belarusian presidential elections, demonstrations and instability inside Belarus have sparked anxiety and concern in both Moscow and Western capitals over the future geopolitical orientation of this East European country wedged between Russia and NATO’s Baltic flank. Hypothetical dramatic political changes inside Belarus that deeply and profoundly alter Minsk’s foreign policy and geopolitical alignment would force Russia to introduce major revisions to military-strategic planning on its western flank. Undoubtedly, under such a scenario, Kaliningrad, the Russian Federation’s westernmost province, would be adversely affected. And though some implications—especially in the realms of bilateral trade, food and energy security—would have only marginal bearing on the oblast, at least at first, the military-political ramifications would bring profound medium- to long-term changes to Russia’s position in Kaliningrad. Indeed, the impact of Belarus on the Russian strategic situation in Kaliningrad has often been neglected, if not completely ignored, by Western experts.