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Kaliningrad: Russia’s Unsinkable ‘Aircraft Carrier’ Should Make NATO Sweat

Russian Military
Russian Military Su-34 Fighter-Bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Kaliningrad – Russia’s Secret Weapon Against NATO? The term ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ first appeared during the Second World War. The term described islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean that were of significant strategic importance. In the European Theater of Operations, the British-controlled island of Malta was also described as a crucial and unsinkable carrier for the Royal Air Force.

Today, the term applies to more than just islands.

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is roughly the size of Connecticut and wedged between NATO and EU members Poland and Lithuania. Kaliningrad is often considered the Russian Navy Baltic Fleet’s most capable and unsinkable carrier. Last week, the Baltic Fleet carried out a series of simulated missile strikes from the exclave of its nuclear-capable Iskander system.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the forces of the Baltic Fleet conducted training sessions to “deliver mock missile strikes with the crews of the Iskander operational-tactical missile systems.” The Iskander has a reported range of about 185 miles. If launched from Kaliningrad, the Iskander could strike targets in western Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States, and parts of Germany. 

The latest drills follow the April 29 unveiling of the Russian military’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which has a range of nearly 11,200 miles, putting the continental United States within its potential range. The Sarmat has been under development for several years. 

History of Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad is one of 46 oblasts (administrative regions) in Russia, but it is the only one that does not have a land border with another part of the country. The roots of the territory reach far back in history, and its recent past is closely connected to the fate of East Prussia and its capital, Koenigsberg, after the defeat of Nazi Germany at the end of the Second World War.

The region was founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1255, and it has long been associated with German militarism. However, as noted by Stefan Wolff, professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, it is equally famous for the philosophers Immanuel Kant, who lived his entire life in Koenigsberg, and Hannah Arendt, who spent part of her childhood there.

The city of Koenigsberg and the area adjacent to it — about one-third of East Prussia at the time – was occupied by the Soviet Red Army. In 1946, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin renamed it in honor of Mikhail Kalinin, who had been chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet – the head of state of the Soviet Union – at the time of his death in 1946. The area once had a highly intermixed population that included Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, and Jews. Stalin ethnically cleansed most of its German population. He followed that with a systematic campaign of Russification that sought to erase all traces of German heritage. 

As a Russian military base, the region adds significantly to Moscow’s strategic depth. It is also considered a critical asset for Moscow’s anti-access, area denial capabilities in the Baltic Sea. It could even undermine NATO’s freedom of maneuver across the Baltic States, as well as across parts of Poland.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. CK

    May 10, 2022 at 9:48 am

    I mean, if Snake Island is anything to go by, unsinkable aircraft carriers don’t mean much if you don’t control the airspace around you.

    With Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Kaliningrad is every more exposed than ever.

    The normal understanding in the event of Russian invasion of NATO is that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be quickly overrun, and that Kaliningrad would be a springboard. In effect, these countries would act as a ‘tripwire’, trying to slow down the overwhelming numerical superiority of Russia with tanks and troops, trying as best as they could to stop the Russians at the Suwalki Gap or Corridor, between Kaliningrad and Lithuania and Poland.

    But… does anyone believe that now? After Ukraine?

    Suddenly, Kaliningrad isn’t even that scary any more. Especially now, with even MORE NATO troops being stationed in those countries, and a whole other front opening up to the north with Finland and Sweden.

    Strategically, this is disastrous for Russia.

  2. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 11:02 am

    And now, instead of tantrums and fantasies, let’s face it.

    Zelensky is a Kremlin agent.

    So in just two months:

    1. Actively extorted money from the West.

    2. Strengthened the ruble.

    3. In addition to the Crimea, he gave Donbass to Russia.

    4.. Turned off the gas at the whole of Europe, sending it to the Middle Ages.

    5. Ruined the pockets of drivers, farmers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers in the EU and the US.

    6. Since the beginning of the special operation, almost all major competitors from Russia have left, making room for Russian entrepreneurs.

    7. Begging for so many weapons that even Scholz said that the Bundeswehr was running out of weapons “for himself.”

    8. He collected all the crap of the Ukrainian Nazi subculture – tattooed Nazis, outcasts, idiots, maniacs, murderers from Europe and other countries in one place, where the Russians kill them in batches and promptly deliver them to Bandera.

    9. United the Russian people around their leader. Russia has never known such powerful support for the actions of the President and his cabinet during all the terms of his reign.

    10. He sent into emigration the entire corrupt beau monde of the Russian stage and cinema, with pockets full of “wishes” from the grateful Russian people.

    Never before has Russia been as good as under Zelensky.

  3. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    Jim Chambers (Fergie Chambers) – a journalist from NY spoke about how he SAW the attacks of Ukrainian fascists on peaceful Ukrainians. He told how he SAW what horrors the Bandera Nazis were doing to the Ukrainians. He said that food and medicine appeared when the Russian Liberators came.

    He told how he SAW Nazi paraphernalia wherever the military of Ukraine abandoned their positions (swastikas, Mein Kampf books, paintings by Hitler, Bandera, etc.).

    He SAW how opponents of the regime of the Ukrainian authorities were detained, tortured and killed. He told how the people of Ukraine are waging their struggle for existence and for peace without Bandera Nazis. He spoke about how the Russian liberators help civilians and the Ukrainians ask the Russians not to leave. The Ukrainians are upset that the Russians came late, they should have come earlier.

    He said: “Our American weapons have only exacerbated the useless bloodshed in a battle that the Ukrainian fascists can never win. I am ashamed to carry an American passport with me. The world desperately needs a Russian victory: at the end of Ukrainian Nazism and at the end of the American NATO empire. World needs victory for freedom.”

  4. David Ball

    May 10, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    I don’t think it is fair to describe the part of East Prussia around what was Konigsberg as having a mixed population. It was predominately German and it was ethnically cleansed (very brutally) of those Germans who had not fled and settled as war booty by the Soviets (Russians). Russia never had any claim to the land and it was not really justifiable at the time. It was good old-fashioned land grab – something we rightly condemned Hitler for. ( Ask the Poles and the Baltic states about Russian land grabs – a march to the West somewhat akin to the German Eastwards equivalent) In Soviet days as it was connected to occupied Lithuania it didn’t really matter, but with the breakup of the Soviet Union the folly of the decision is now evident

  5. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    Graham William Phillips is an outstanding British journalist who objectively and unbiasedly covers events in Ukraine.

    He is in a war zone and interviews all sides. He confirms the existence of Bandera Nazis who brutally torture and kill Ukrainians just because they do not want to see Bandera Nazis in their country.

    He confirms that the Ukrainians are asking the Russian liberators not to leave them anymore and not to leave.

    It is interesting to see how Graham interviews Aiden Aislin, a Briton who fought on the side of Ukraine as part of the Nazi Azov Battalion and was taken prisoner in Mariupol.

    The truth will always see the world thanks to such professionals, and not propagandists, who sometimes have never been to Ukraine and are thousands of miles away.

    No Nazism. We – free people will win.

  6. Alex

    May 11, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    A bit of truth.

    The head of the UN monitoring mission, Matilda Bogner, said that the organization has reliable information about the torture of Russian soldiers in Ukrainian captivity:
    “Ukraine and Russia must promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war,” she said.

    The military-civilian administration of the Kherson region announced their intention to appeal to Putin with a request to include the region into Russia:
    “We intend to live as part of the Russian Federation. We fully cooperate and feel as one with the regions of Russia.”

    Pfizer, Moderna, Merck, Gilead are testing medicines in Ukraine, bypassing international safety standards, reducing the costs of research programs and gaining significant competitive advantages. Coronavirus vaccine manufacturers have been involved in US military biological activities.

    Along with American pharmaceutical companies and Pentagon contractors, Ukrainian state structures are involved in military biological activities, the main tasks of which are to conceal illegal activities, conduct field and clinical trials, and provide the necessary biomaterial.
    The American side expanded its research potential both in the field of creating biological weapons and in the field of obtaining information about antibiotic resistance and the presence of antibodies to various diseases in the population of specific regions.

    Ukraine has long become a training ground for Western countries to create biological weapons components and test new samples of pharmaceuticals.

    The United States, as part of its military biological program in Ukraine, used Mariupol as a regional center for work with the cholera pathogen.
    Evidence was obtained of the emergency destruction of documents confirming work with the US military department. A preliminary analysis of the surviving documentation indicates the use of Mariupol as a regional center for the collection and certification of the cholera pathogen.

    The selected strains were sent to the public health center in Kyiv, which is entrusted with the functions of further sending biomaterials to the United States.
    This activity has been carried out since 2014, which is confirmed by the acts of transfer of strains.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Fox News recalled that the United States supplied weapons to Ukraine long before the start of the Russian special operation.
    “The Biden administration was supplying weapons long before the invasion. The first billion dollars that the president allocated for Ukraine did indeed include assistance with lethal weapons … The United States, Canada, Britain, other allies actually helped prepare the Ukrainians, ”Kirby quoted the TV channel as saying.

    As military experts and analysts had previously assumed, Ukraine would have brought down all its military power on the Donbass in any case, but Russia was the first to come to the aid of Donyuass.

    The world is watching. The world sees. Lies are dying.

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