Staunton, December 4 – In his speech to the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Putin called for developing Russian ports in the Baltic, an indication, Aleksandr Nosovich says, that “the Kremlin has taken the political decision to stop using the seaports of the Baltic countries and redirect Russian transit to the ports of the northwestern part of the Russian Federation.”
In a commentary on Rubaltic.ru, the Russia commentator stresses that this is permanent decision and won’t be reversed either by the end of Western sanctions or “the softening of anti-Russian rhetoric of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia” (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/041215-poslanie-putina/).
Putin clearly indicated that Russia from now on will give priority to ports in Russia and stop using ports in Ukraine on the Black Sea and in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on the Baltic. The big winners in this will be Novorossiisk, Taman and other Ukrainian ports, and Vyborg, Ust-Luga, Prmorsk and other Russian ports on the Baltic.
The big “losers” will be Odessa, Ilichevsk and other Ukrainian ports, and Klaipeda, Riga, Ventspils, and Tallinn on the Baltic, Nosovich says.
The development of Russian ports on the Baltic has been Moscow’s policy since the 1990s, but for much of that period, Russia hoped that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be cooperative. Those hopes have proven to be vain, and the three Baltic countries have become among the most hostile to Moscow in the world.
The impact of Moscow’s shift in cargo routes has already been felt. Latvia has lost more than a billion US dollars this year, Estonia has seen trade flows to and from Russia decline, as has Lithuania, and all three are certain to see more declines in the future, because Moscow isn’t about to change direction on this.
That will have consequences for the Baltic countries who include among their residents “’an economic fifth column’” that wants good relations with Russia and continued transit. What those people will do in the current situation remains very much an open question, Nosovich suggests.
But one thing is clear, he says. “Russian in financial terms will win much more if it exports its goods through its own ports.” That is something the Baltic countries do not appear to have understood.