US comments on blockade of Russian exclave
The US says that it “appreciates” anti-Russian sanctions imposed by EU nations and that its military is committed to the defense of Lithuania, after the country banned some Russian goods from passing through its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
Ned Price, the spokesman for the US state department, dismissed Moscow’s displeasure with the Lithuanian blockade of its territory as “saber-rattling” and “bluster.” Speaking at a daily briefing, he said he didn’t want to “give it additional time.”
“We, of course, appreciate the unprecedented economic measures that many countries around the world… including in this case Lithuania, have joined us in taking against Russia for its unprovoked war in Ukraine,” he said.
Price said that the US would protect Lithuania from any military attack, as is due under its NATO obligations.
“Lithuania has been a stalwart partner in this. We stand by NATO. We stand by our NATO Allies, and we stand by Lithuania,” he said.
The row between Russia and its Baltic neighbor erupted last week after Lithuania started blocking the transit of goods between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad region. The partial restrictions came into force last Saturday, with Vilnius claiming it was a natural part of enforcing EU sanctions against Russian trade. Roughly half of the traffic is estimated to be affected. The banned items include coal, metals, and construction materials.
Moscow said the restrictions were crossing every line and warned that there would be serious consequences for what it described as a Lithuanian blockade of its exclave. The decision clearly violated international law, the Russian government noted. Some experts suggested that it could even amount to a casus belli – a cause to start a war over.
Kaliningrad region is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania and has access to the Baltic Sea, which technically allows Russia to ferry goods to it. The relatively small exclave also hosts a significant number of Russian troops and weapon systems, making it a key component in the country’s national security.