May 22, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russia reexamining its maritime borders with Finland

Institute for the Study of War

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) proposed on May 21 that the Russian government reassess Russia’s maritime borders in the Baltic Sea so that these borders “correspond to the modern geographical situation.” The Russian MoD produced a since-deleted document, which appeared on the Russian government’s legal portal on May 21, proposing that the Russian government should reassess the 1985 maritime borders in the Gulf of Finland because these borders were based on outdated “small-scale nautical navigation maps” developed in the mid-20th century. The document proposed to partially recognize the 1985 resolution as “defunct.” The document suggested that the Russian government should adjust the maritime border coordinates in the Gulf of Finland in the zone of Jähi, Sommers, Gogland, Rodsher, Malyy Tyuters, and Vigrund islands and near the northern delta of the Narva River. The document also proposed that the Russian government revise the area of the Curonian Spit, Cape Taran, a cape south of Cape Taran, and the Vistula Spit in the Baltic Sea. Sommers, Gogland, Rodsher, Malyy Tyuters, and Vigrund island are under Russian control, while Russia and Finland split control over the Jähi island. The northern delta of the Narva River is located between Russia and Estonia, while the Curonian Spit leads to the international border between Russia and Lithuania. The Vistula Spit (also known as the Baltic Spit in Russia) is split between Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia and Poland, and Cape Taran is just northwest of Kaliningrad City. The document stated that these proposed changes would establish a system of baselines for maritime borders on the southern part of the Russian islands in the eastern part of Gulf of Finland as well as in the areas of Baltiysk and Zelenogradsk, both in Kaliningrad Oblast. The document also noted that these changes will allow Russia to use corresponding water areas as Russian internal sea waters, and that the line of the Russian state border will shift due to the changes in the position of the external border of the territorial sea.

Kremlin and Russian MoD officials denied on May 22 that Russia is planning to change the Russian maritime border, but invertedly implied that the Russian government is considering undertaking some “security” measures in the Baltic Sea. Russian state news agencies Ria Novosti and TASS published statements from unnamed military-diplomatic sources, who claimed that “Russia did not have and does not have any intentions of revising the state border line, economic zone, and continental shelf in the Baltic [region].” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian MoD’s proposal is not politically motivated, despite the fact that the “political situation has changed significantly” since 1985. Peskov added that the escalation of tensions and the increased level of confrontation in the Baltic region “requires appropriate steps” from relevant Russian agencies to “ensure [Russian] security.” Russian officials did not explain why the MoD proposal was removed from the government’s legal portal.

Western officials noted that Russia may be reassessing the basis for maritime borders in order to revise maritime zones in the Baltic Sea.Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen stated on May 22 that the Finnish Foreign Ministry (MFA) is reviewing the reports about Russia’s reassessment and that Finland expects Russia to act according to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. Finnish Prime Minister stated that Russia’s review of maritime borders will likely be routine and that Finland is not worried about the reassessment. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis announced that Lithuania summoned the Russian charge d’affaires in connection with the reassessment. The Lithuanian MFA told Politico that Lithuania sees Russia’s actions as “deliberate, targeted, escalatory provocations to intimidate neighboring countries and their societies.” The Lithuanian MFA added that the Russian MoD’s proposal is “further proof that Russia’s aggressive and revisionist policy is a threat to the security of neighboring countries and Europe as a whole.” Swedish Commander-in-Chief Mikael Byden expressed concern about Russian ambitions in the Baltic Sea and warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin aims to control the Baltic Sea and that Putin “has his eyes” on the island of Gotland. Byden did not rule out the possibility that Russia is already using oil tankers to conduct reconnaissance and sabotage in the Baltic Sea and near Gotland.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) proposed on May 21 that the Russian government reassess Russia’s maritime borders in the Baltic Sea so that these borders “correspond to the modern geographical situation.”
  • Kremlin and Russian MoD officials denied on May 22 that Russia is planning to change the Russian maritime border, but invertedly implied that the Russian government is considering undertaking some “security” measures in the Baltic Sea.
  • Western officials noted that Russia may be reassessing the basis for maritime borders in order to revise maritime zones in the Baltic Sea.
  • The Kremlin appears to be developing a system to legalize the status of Russia’s so-called “compatriots abroad,” likely as part of its efforts to set information conditions to justify further aggression and hybrid operations abroad as “protecting” Russia’s compatriots.
  • United Kingdom (UK) Defense Minister Grant Shapps stated on May 22 that US and UK intelligence have evidence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “is now or will be” providing lethal military assistance to Russia, a statement that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan questioned.
  • Western officials warned that Russian intelligence services intend to increase sabotage activities and other hybrid operations against NATO member countries.
  • US Space Command reported on May 21 that Russia recently launched an anti-satellite weapon, the most recent report that Russia intends to field disruptive anti-satellite capabilities.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan indirectly accused Russia and directly accused Belarus of helping Azerbaijan to prepare for the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, against the backdrop of deteriorating Armenian-Russian relations.
  • Ukrainian forces recently recaptured territory near Vovchansk and Chasiv Yar, and Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Vovchansk, Avdiivka, Donetsk City, and Velyka Novosilka.
  • Russian courts reportedly began forcibly hospitalizing Russians charged with political crimes such as spreading “fake” information about the Russian military, in psychiatric hospitals.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-22-2024 

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