Unfortunately, Feldman says, “the present system of relations of the center and the regions doesn’t allow such discussions” or for the regions to meet their energy needs on their own. Instead, Kaliningrad continues to be “hostage to a situation in which the Kremlin has transformed it from a subject of dialogue with Europe into ‘a garrison of a besieged fortress.’”
And because Moscow has made promises it almost certainly cannot keep with regard to “the energy security of Kaliningrad,” it may undermine the economy of the exclave and power the rise of a new regionalism there based on natural conclusion that the problems people there face are Moscow’s fault.
Ten days ago, Vladimir Putin came to Kaliningrad to celebrate the arrival of a ship carrying LNG for the exclave and thus ensuring that Lithuania could never use the gas weapon against it in the event of a further deterioration of relations. He also called for the construction of a terminal for the ship, something that remains at the planning stages.
In order to have the ship there, Moscow had to purchase LNG in Singapore and bring it via sea to Kaliningrad. It could not do so from its own ports, one of which is even further away on the Pacific and the other is ice bound at this time of year. The cost of LNG brought in this way was 4.5 times greater than that brought in via Lithuania.
Putin promised that this difference won’t be passed on to consumers, but his promises are not worth much, Feldman says, given that the Kremlin leader also promised that he would never raise the pension age. Perhaps even more seriously, buying gas in Singapore may not be a guarantee of energy security either if the international situation deteriorates.
Regional experts have been exploring ways in which Kaliningrad might become more self-sufficient as far as its energy needs are concerned, using peat or coal or developing electric power generation. While there is no single position on these issues, Moscow has ignored these possibilities completely, Feldman says.
Putin may have gotten his photo op on January 8, but because Moscow won’t consider that Kaliningrad or any of the other regions have something useful to say about how to ensure their energy situation will be stable, the people of Kaliningrad are being left holding the bag – and it is likely to be ever more empty.