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Seven decades after the terrible fate visited on Königsberg, it is a sobering thought that this benighted place might be the source of the next great conflagration. Not only the Germans but the whole of Europe risks another such divine retribution: not for the unspeakable crimes of the Nazis, but for a complacency that is almost criminal. Today Kaliningrad resembles Mordor in The Lord of the Rings: a shadowland dominated by the all-seeing towers of the Russian intelligence agencies. It houses an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons capable of devastating north-eastern Europe, the most likely theatre of war after Ukraine. No credible defence of the Baltic states is possible as long as this Russian bridgehead remains to the rear of Nato forces, far behind the eastern borders of the Western alliance. Kaliningrad is a time bomb waiting to explode.

Europeans persist in ignoring the threat posed by an expansionist Russia that clearly regards all the former territories of the Soviet Union as part of its legitimate sphere of influence. But Europe is also turning its back on America, now as ever the last best hope of Western civilisation. As I write, US and other Nato forces are still being deployed in the Baltic states to contain the threat posed by Kaliningrad. What, though, if President Trump were to respond to the manifest hostility of his European allies by pulling out? Why should America risk nuclear war for the sake of Lithuania — or indeed other Nato members? If, as opinion polls suggest, the British public agrees with the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, that this president is unworthy to address parliament, why should we feel entitled to rely on US forces, whose commander-in-chief he is? If we are to treat Mr Trump as a leper, is he necessarily wrong to criticise Europe for leaving itself defenceless while letting its cities be attacked by terrorists and overrun by migrants? Kaliningrad stands as a symbol of anamnesis: the loss of collective memory, of history, language, and culture at the hands of conquerors.

The truth is that peace in Europe subsists at the mercy of the Kaliningrad contingency: the remote but real possibility that a major war could break out in or in the vicinity of the exclave. Ukraine’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States and Britain as well as Russia, in return for Ukraine’s renunciation of nuclear weapons. Twenty years later Russia was not deterred from annexing Crimea and breaking up Ukraine. If the President of Lithuania thinks she doesn’t need Britain to be a transatlantic bridge because “we communicate with the United States by Twitter”, then heaven help the Baltic states if and when the Kaliningrad contingency comes to pass.    
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October 24th, 2017
7:10 PM
The author has never been in Kaliningrad-Konigsberg. Why write a lie? There live normal people, not distressed. We also do not want war as you are. Our army on its territory, and that makes the American. And good to remember that 70% of königsberg was razed to the ground British aircraft in 1945. Come join us in the city, talk to people, look at our life and you will realize that we Jeno so different from you.

March 2nd, 2017
12:03 PM
"Ukraine’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum" What is also disturbinb to Americans is that this "agreement" was never ratified by our Senate. It reeks of the pre-World War I commitment of Britain to aid France and Belgium -- resulting in an automatic road to war without consultation with Parliament or the British people. I thought such "gentlemen's agreements" were ruled out after 1918; but here they are back again -- diplomats commit their countries and peoples to wars over obscure obligations about which they were not consulted, over borders and foreign disputes in which they have no interest.

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