EDITORIAL Russia’s watery move

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«What if we changed the state border in the Baltic Sea?» – «I have heard that those with poor continence should not drink their own bathwater.» Daily caricature, 23.05.2024.
«What if we changed the state border in the Baltic Sea?» – «I have heard that those with poor continence should not drink their own bathwater.» Daily caricature, 23.05.2024. Illustration: Urmas Nemvalts
  • Russia wants the return of former areas of interest.
  • Russia wants to discredit NATO without taking any risks.
  • The new phase of Russia's hybrid war looks desperate.

Russia has managed to cause international confusion again, this time with the talk of changing the maritime border with Finland and Lithuania. Although Interfax reported on Wednesday morning already that Russia does not intend to adjust the width of the territorial waters and economic zone or the state border line in the Baltic Sea, the earlier announcement on the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense left some room for interpretation and there was also no map of the changes.

Obviously, this is another manifestation of Russia's hybrid war. Attention should be paid to a sentence in the statement on the website of the Ministry of Defense, according to which Russia finds that the geographical coordinates of 1985, which determine the baselines measuring the territorial sea of Russia, no longer «fully correspond to the current geographical situation».

Reading the wording, there is no way to rule out a unilateral change in Russia's territorial waters, but this is not of primary importance. What is of primary importance is the thought model that appears to us. By changing the geographical situation, Russia does not, of course, mean the movement of continental shelves, which inevitably transform natural border objects over millions of years. Russia has in mind geopolitics and the return of former international spheres of influence and areas of interest; at least it would like such a shift from international law towards spheres of influence. The US can keep Grenada if it really wants to, but we're spreading out across the Baltic Sea – do not even think about your Baltic Sea being a NATO lake.

There is nothing better than messing with NATO’s maritime borders, because it is difficult to draw a border on water.

In such a context, the opinion of experts and politicians who claim that the talk of changing Russia's maritime borders is impossible and absurd considering international conventions is extremely naive. Did international agreements, including the Helsinki Accords signed by Brezhnev in 1975, which precluded the violent alteration of European borders, prevent Russia from invading Ukraine? No, Russia has shown by its actions that it has returned to the imperial principles of the 19th century and is taking from where it can.

However, while Crimea fell like a ripe apple from the tree, further taking has proven to be more and more difficult. Putin does not talk much about Kherson, Odesa and Zaporizhzhia anymore. The keywords of recent years have been Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vovchansk. It would be great to compensate for the low point with something that would enable to discredit NATO, but would not require an excessively high risk or military contribution. There is nothing better than messing with NATO’s maritime borders, because it is difficult to draw a border on water. You try it on the beach with a stick and see how it goes. And what will the Finns do then? Are they really going to mine the water area or send out warships?

The new phase of Russia's hybrid war looks a little desperate, though. Estonia's answer can be simple: we respect the territorial integrity of countries and proceed from the Tartu Peace Treaty. Latvia could create an agency for the reintegration of Abrene and Japan could once again send a note to Russia calling for an end to the occupation of the Kuril Islands.

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