Tag Archives: Latvia

A Realistic Look at the ‘Russian Threat’ to the Baltic States.

So lets take a look at all these Russian threats to the Baltic states.

Well, there really aren’t any.

Moscow ceded these countries peacefully in the early 90’s. Why do that if you wanted them back, as some now claim? Well, the answer is Russia doesn’t want these places back. It is the largest country in the world and has enough fields and forests already. The idea is preposterous. Putin has even said so. Many times.

The media constantly spews out tales of ‘Russian troops gathering near the border’. Translation: Russian troops in Russia. Big news, eh?

‘Russian warships in the Baltic sea’ they scream. They neglect to mention that the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad just happens to be a Russian military base and is guess where? Yup – the Baltic sea. More non-news.

‘Russian bombers in EU airspace’ is another oft-touted line. What they neglect to say is the Air Force of many countries routinely violate the airspace of others. It has always been thus. Sometimes its training, sometimes it is little more than fun or a playful prod to see hoe fast they can react. America does this too.

Were any of these headlines indicative of any serious intent, the stories would be not about planes over the sea miles offshore or the odd mountain where nobody lives, the stories would be about laden bombers approaching heavily populated cities. But they are not.

The ‘Russian threats’ to the Baltics are manufactured lies in order that the US and the EU can apply pressure on Russia to counter this threat. They don’t actually exist.

The desire to lean on Russia is very much evident in the EU and the US though. For reasons we have no space to go into here, but some of which are mentioned elsewhere here. Continue reading

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Heading Back Through Poland – Eastern European Road Trip

This is part six of a tale about driving from the UK to Estonia, and back again. If you missed earlier segments, and want to start from the beginning, it can be found by clicking this link: Road Trip From the UK to Estonia.

We pick up the tale in the early evening, in the south of Lithuania in Marijampoles, close to the Polish border. We just pulled up at a roadside hotel.

So the hotel is called the Rezidencija Grizulo Ratai – they have a Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/grizuloratai.eu

I was surprised to find my room had a big jacuzzi in there. Just what the road weary traveller needs!

Being the FSU, the food was pants, everything was “finished”, the wine warm and the service patchy at best. But not bad enough to be considered bad in this region. The room was respectable, and the bed comfy.

Breakfast however, didn’t start till 9am.

What kind of roadside hotel doesn’t start breakfast until 9am? Most people want to be on the road by 8am – many earlier. These people really haven’t got the grasp of the hotel business. The lack of other guests would seem to support that.

However, time to crack on, we were exactly 1000 miles from Rotterdam now, so two more days at 500 miles a day to go.

We leave the FSU and head back into the land of tractors, trees and trucks: Poland.

The day ahead means crossing all of Poland in one day. I had grown weary of the travel already, and I wanted to be at home with my wife and daughter. My son was also getting fed up by now and missed his Mum somewhat.

Poland was a complete pain in the arse this time.

The moment we crossed the border, we were flagged in for a customs check.

I *really* wasn’t in the mood, I had 500 miles to cover and these guys were holding me up, and a bribe wasn’t on the table.

They asked me all the usual stuff about where I had been and where I was going and took the vehicle documents to check them on a computer in their van.

They opened up the van and it was pretty full of stuff. They asked me if I had any cigarettes (this is the smuggling route from Russia). I said yes, and showed them the ones I had bought in Belgium. Then they tried to be clever, it went kinda like this:

“Ten cartons? Hmm, we will probably have to confiscate these”
“You will be confiscating nothing. They are EU bought, with tax stickers and receipt, and we are still in the EU, unless you forgot”
“Maybe they are from Russia?” says he while glancing through the Russian visas in my passport.
“You can read, yes? Observe the receipt with a Belgian address. Observe the Benelux tax stickers”
“They might be fake”
“What, the receipt too? Big effort that would be for ten cartons don’t you think? This is silly, Can I go now?”
“We are still checking your vehicle”
“How long is that likely to take?”
“As long as it takes”. [Translation: Maybe you will bribe us]

Aha.

“Probably we should unload your van to check for contraband” [Translation: Maybe you will bribe us]
“Go right ahead. However, do be careful, and I will hold you accountable for breakages and competent reloading”
“It isn’t our job to reload the van”
“Can you show me something official that says that?”

— Silence. —

“Have you checked the van documents yet?”
“We haven’t finished yet.” [Translation: Maybe you will bribe us]
“Do you intend to unload the van?”
“We haven’t decided yet” [Translation: Maybe you will bribe us]

Five more minutes of such nonsense passes. I start to see my arse a bit by now, so I try this……..

“Does that van have an internet connection on all those computers in there?”
“Of course, why?”
“Can you get me the phone number for the British Embassy in Warsaw please? I think I need advice here and this “check” seems to be making no progress and I see no reason to delay a fellow EU citizen in this way. Also write down all your names, numbers and ranks if you would, thanks.”

He walks to his van, they have a swift conversation, he returns with my vehicle documents and says, “You can go”

“Gotcha! No bribe today!” I thought as I was driving off.

Because Poland has this huge motorway crossing most of it, all the people that sell stuff at the side of the road are confined to small areas either end of the motorways and out of the towns now.

This creates an unusual visual situation where the folks selling tomatoes, potatoes and honey are vying for the space with the roadside hookers. Now, these hookers have clearly read ‘Hooker Marketing Strategies 101’ or something, because these don’t look like the usual drugged up skanks you might normally see by the roadside. There were some properly done up, well dressed, seriously attractive looking women out there. So noticeable were they, that the truckers were dramatically slowing down for a better look and this was causing more than the usual traffic congestion.

Progress through Poland was mighty slow. Traffic was very heavy and there were roadworks everywhere.

I sat in one traffic queue over an hour without moving more than twenty feet. Poland will be OK when its finished, but right now its just one huge contraflow.

Even when we were moving, the usual Polish rural stuff gets samey after a while.

But most of it was motorways. For hundreds of miles. That all look the same.

The motorway was punctuated by the odd town, that also all looked the same by now……..

Time came to stop for the night, around 500 miles on the navigation was showing for Rotterdam, and we were at the Polish/German border. I had so had enough of Poland after such a long day, so decided to cross into Germany to seek out a hotel……even though it would be more expensive. At least everything wouldn’t be “finished” like in the FSU, right? Continue reading

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A Drive from UK to Estonia via Poland, Lithuania & Latvia

I will have a pal of mine in tow who likes the idea of Eastern European women, who wants to see some in their natural habitat en route.

After our side of Europe, this little sojourn will be taking us through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and the whole length of Estonia. (Going around Kaliningrad as you cant go through there without a transit visa) Continue reading

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