Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 187

Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov’s just-completed visit to the Kaliningrad region — described as his first "working visit" to military units since his appointment in July — underscored Moscow’s new emphasis on strengthening Russia’s presence in that Baltic exclave. The area is seen in Moscow not only as a military outpost against an enlarging NATO but, more generally, as a geopolitical asset at a time of receding Russian influence in Europe. An international conference on developments in the region, just held in neighboring Poland, reached that same conclusion. (BNS, October 7)

According to Kaliningrad’s governor, Yury Matochkin, Rodionov’s visit was also a political signal that Russia would maintain its presence there, despite the high costs of doing so. A series of other developments carried the same message. The command of Russia’s border troops opened a new training facility for border troop officers in the regional capital last week, the sixth such institution in all of Russia. On September 27 a makeshift Russian Orthodox church was consecrated in the capital city’s center near the bombed out ruin of the German Lutheran cathedral of Koenigsberg (once the coronation place of the Kings of Prussia). The Russian deputy governor declared at the consecration ceremony that the church — which is to become an Orthodox cathedral — will "embody the Russian presence on the Baltic shores… telling everyone that here is the Russian spirit, the smell of Russia." (Interfax, September 27, October 1) The region, German since the thirteenth century, was home to some major German cultural figures and had no Russian inhabitants until the 1945 Soviet ethnic cleansing of the German population.

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