Baltic Sea States Scramble as Russia Moves to Alter Borders

The Announcement

At approximately 0730 EST on May 21st, 2024, Russian state-owned media reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense had proposed a list of coordinates to clarify the state border of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia and several Baltic Sea Islands. The announcement from the MoD reads below:

“The current list of geographical coordinates of points that determine the position of the baselines for counting the width of territorial waters, the economic zone and the continental shelf of the USSR near the mainland coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic and Black Seas, approved by the Decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of January 15, 1985 No 56-22, requires changes for the following reasons: the straight baselines of the Russian Federation in the Gulf of Finland do not have a continuation and are not closed to territory of the Russian Federation, which in turn does not allow determining the external border of the internal sea waters of the Russian Federation; does not take into account the practice of establishing direct baselines of other states; the geographical coordinates of the points were once determined on the basis of small-scale nautical charts compiled on the basis of works of the mid-20th century, and do not fully correspond to the modern geographical situation.”

It is important to note that the announcement did not include an updated map which outlines the changes, throwing NATO, especially the Baltic Sea states into disarray.

The first response came from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Landsbergis who called for firm NATO and EU responses to these reported changes in the Baltic Sea borders.

Swedish Armed Forces Commander Byden also responded, saying that the Russian Federation wanted to take control of Gotland Island. Estonian Foreign Minister Tsahkna told press that Estonia was investigating Russia’s unilateral decision to change Baltic Sea borders.

Russian Backpedaling

However, by 0430 EST, the Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly denied intentions to revise borders in the Baltic Sea. This was reported by Russian state-owned media:

“There have been and are no intentions to revise the width of territorial waters, the economic zone, the continental shelf off the mainland coast and the line of the state border of the Russian Federation in the Baltic.”

After that clarification by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Estonian Foreign Minister Tsahkna announced that they were in contact with Finland and Lithuania over the developments. Lithuania Parliament Speaker Cmilyte-Nielsen also told press that any Russian plans to change any borders will be seen as a “further escalation of tensions.”

As of this publication, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has summoned their representative from the Russian Federation.

This comes after Russian Presidential Spokesperson Peskov told press that the level of “confrontation” in the Baltic Sea requires Russia to take steps to increase security.

Baltic Borders After the Soviet Union

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the declaration of independence of the Baltic States; Lithuania, Estonia, and Lativa, the Russian Federation entered into bi-lateral negotiations with each nation to determine the new borders. However, several of those renegotiations never resulted in an official treaty, leaving the door open for today’s developments.

Lithuania has had the most stable border relations with both Belarus and the Russian Federation in that all three nations agreed on the 1940 borders before Lithuania was conquered by the Soviet Union.

The border situation with Latvia is much more fraught in that an official agreement, originally expected to be signed in 2005 was never agreed upon due to disputes over Latvians deported from Pytalovo and surroundings. Pytalovo is a village on the Russian side of the border with about 5,000 people. President Putin announced that the Russian Federation would not enter into negotiations which resulted in the loss of territory of Russia, since the country had lost so much after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The situation is worst with Estonia. The Estonia-Russia border treaty had been signed in Moscow on May 18th, 2005, and ratified by Estonia but was not ratified by Russia due to the fact that Estonia’s internal treaty ratification legislation passed by parliament mentioned the 1920 Treaty of Tartu (the treaty under which these territories were originally recognized as Estonian). On September 6th, 2005, the Russian Foreign Ministry also announced that it would not be subject to the Treaty Between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Estonia on the Delimitation of the Sea Areas in the Narva Estuary and Gulf of Finland. This fact, in particular, gives the Russian Federation the breathing room needed to make today’s announcements.

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.


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