Baltic countries concerned with electricity vulnerability

The Baltic states' desire to join the EU power grid has led to a potential energy struggle with Russia, who could turn the power off before the region is ready to join the European systems.

Marta Tuul
Marta Tuul Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: EestiPaevaleht
Baltic countries concerned with electricity vulnerability - NewsMavens
Iru Power Plant in Maardu, near Tallinn, Estonia. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

As of 2018, the Baltics states are still connected to Russia's electricity grids. Estonians have long expressed concern with this inheritance from the Soviet era, especially after the 2015 cyber-attacks on Ukraine's electricity during the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Preparations to desynchronize from the Russian grids are underway, but they require additional infrastructure that is subject to negotiation with other EU member states, particularly Poland, who would play a key role in linking the Baltic states to Europe's power grid. 

Meanwhile, Russians are pressing on with the technological preparations necessary to cut the Baltic states off their power grid.

It appears they will be ready to do so before Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia can connect to EU electricity systems.

The decision to switch grids is likely to have irked Russia, especially since it might leave the heavily-militarized Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, located on the Polish-Lithuanian border, vulnerable.

By ensuring it is ready to desynchronize first, Moscow will gain the opportunity to coerce the Baltic states by threatening to interfere with their power system. Whether or not this interference will come to pass is anyone's guess, but Putin is obviously keen to have clout in the region -- just in case. 

Details from the story:

  • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are isolated from the rest of Europe's electricity networks because they are connected with the Russian electricity grid, inherited from the Soviet era.
  • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been working to join the European electricity grid for years, and plan to connect through Poland by 2025.
  • Poland must agree to build a second interconnector for the Baltic states to be connected with the rest of Europe.
  • Meanwhile, Visegrad countries are going through a phase of Euroscepticism that could jeopardize relations between the Baltic States and Poland. Lithuania and Poland's historical tensions are troublesome.
  • During past conflicts, Russia has attacked the power grids connected to its own.
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