It is fashionable in Russia to disparage our fundamental shift in foreign policy that followed the terrorist attacks on the US last year. According to this view, Russia sold its loyalty to the US-led anti-terror coalition too cheaply. In exchange for more bilateral and multilateral financing, Russia now faces growing US military bases on its southern flank in Central Asia and the Caucasus, while NATO is poised to expand right up to our Western border.
But however justified criticism of growing US unilateralism may be--in the so-called war on terrorism and elsewhere--the gravest risks facing Russia lie elsewhere. The first concerns the most basic interest of any state: defense of its territorial integrity. Here the most immediate threat is not posed by America or NATO, but by the European Union, whose enlargement means that member states will soon surround Russia's Kaliningrad region on all sides.
Russia's task is to ensure that this does not impede the free movement of people and goods between Kaliningrad and the rest of the country. This is a vital condition for keeping the region Russian, and special EU transit visas should therefore be granted to Kaliningrad's residents in order to ensure simplified travel through adjacent EU countries. The EU, however, does not want to give Kaliningrad's citizens such rights.
A solution must be found, not least because the EU's attitude to the Kaliningrad problem will be a litmus test of its desire for broader rapprochement with Russia. Our mistake was to broach the subject of "corridors" linking Kaliningrad with the rest of Russia. Poland immediately associated the idea with the pre-war Danzig (Gdansk) Corridor and interpreted it as an ex-territorial encroachment on Polish sovereignty. But this is not so. We are talking about transport routes for people and goods, nothing more . Common sense should prevail.