Staunton, July 11 – Regnum commentator Aleksandr Kurkin has denounced the decision of the European Commission together with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland to complete the construction of an international gage railway between Warsaw and Helsinki as a direct military threat to the Russian Federation.
On June 21, representatives of the five countries and the European Commission signed a declaration in Rotterdam in that regard, a step that Kurkin suggests was part and parcel of NATO’s decision to base Western military units in Poland and the Baltic countries (regnum.ru/news/polit/2155345.html).
The declaration calls for the construction of a new rail line to connect Warsaw and Tallinn via Kaunas, Panevezys, Bauka, Riga and Parnu followed by the construction of a rail tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki.
The three Baltic governments had proposed such a line in 2001, but until 2014, Kurkin says, there was little movement despite repeated statements by senior Baltic officials that the proposed rail line was “extraordinarily iimportant” and “strategic.”
One of the reasons that the idea did not go forward until now, the Regnum commentator says, is that the Rail Baltic project duplicates existing routes, although he does note that the existing routes in the Baltic countries are Russian gage (1520 mm wide) rather than International gage (1435 mm), a difference requiring transferring freight and passengers from one to the other.
And Kurkin thus concludes that “the single rational basis for the construction of this project is military and political.” Indeed, he says, Baltic officials have admitted as much when they have pointed out that an International age line would allow NATO to supply its units in the Baltic countries and to shift forces quickly from one to the other.
Indeed, Kurkin acknowledges, “Rail Baltic will allow a significant speeding up of the possibilities of delivering arms from the ports of Poland and Germany” to the Baltic countries “without having to change the wheels of trains at the Polish-Lithuanian border,” something NATO clearly would like to see.
“At present,” the Russian commentator writes, “NATO is forced in the majority of cases to deliver military equipment via the Baltic Sea to Riga and then by rail lines further into Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia.” Rail Baltica would end that, and its construction, Baltic officials believe, would help them get even more NATO forces based in their countries.
Kurkin concludes ominously that the construction of Rail Baltica would connect the Baltic countries with Berlin, “the capital of a country which along with the US, the UK and Canada is in the most active way working to strengthen ‘the defense and security’ of the Baltic countries relative to Russia.”
Kurkin’s article is not the first such Russian attack on Rail Baltica. Last year, Igor Pavlovsky denounced it as “a way to war with Russia” (regnum.ru/news/polit/1963529.html). But it is perhaps more significant because it is part of a plethora of articles in recent days about Baltic infrastructure and the way other countries, including Belarus, are undercutting Moscow’s efforts to put pressure on the Baltic states (regnum.ru/news/economy/2155492.html).