June 23. 2024. 8:42

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Russia’s push to change Baltic Sea border sparks concern in the region


A Russian defence ministry proposal to revise Russia’s maritime border in the eastern Baltic Sea created concern among NATO’s Nothern members on Wednesday (22 May).

According to a draft document published on the Russian government’s website, the Russian Ministry of Defence said the coordinates of the current border were approved in 1985 based on small-scale nautical charts.

Therefore, according to the document on the planned changes to territorial waters, the border had to be changed because it no longer corresponds to “the modern geographical situation.”

The proposal from Russia, would unilaterally move the border in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, around the Russian islands, and in the area of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, specifically in the vicinity of the cities of Zelenogradsk and Baltiysk.

For Finland, this would redraw the border near the Russian islands of Hogland, Sommarö, Rödskär, Tyterskär and Vigrund. The exact location of the demarcation is not specified and no map was attached to the document.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that there was “nothing political” about the proposal to redraw maritime borders.

“You can see how tensions and the level of confrontation are escalating, especially in the Baltic region. This requires appropriate steps by our relevant bodies to ensure our security,” said Peskov.

However International law clearly prohibits the unilateral change of borders.

Baltic Sea states wary

With Finland, and most recently Sweden, joining NATO, the strategic situation in the Baltic Sea region and the Western military alliance’s Northern Flank has closed its defence gap on the important shipping route from the north, turning it into a quasi ‘NATO-lake’.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the proposal an “obvious escalation” against NATO and the European Union.

“Another Russian hybrid operation is underway, this time trying to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea. This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU and must be met with an appropriately firm response,” said Landsbergis.

How NATO’s Northern enlargement changes the power balance in the region

With Finland, and most recently Sweden, joining NATO, the strategic situation in the Baltic Sea region and on the Western military alliance’s Northern Flank is changing radically, but Russia still poses a threat above and below water.

His Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna said he “can’t rule out that the report is an attempt to sow confusion but we are keeping a cool head.”

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told the TT news agency: “Russia can’t unilaterally decide on new borders.”

On the Finnish side, the authorities called for calm, and an investigation into the situation.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he was in contact with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts, but criticised Vilnius’ strong rhetoric.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told reporters there was no indication that the information about the redrawing of the maritime borders was a Russian provocation.

According to Valtonen, there was the assumption that it was a ‘routine act’ rather than a provocation.

“Russia would be violating a UN convention. Russia would have the whole world against it,” she said, adding that it is not a NATO issue at the moment.

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