Russia controls this vital strategic exclave in the heart of NATO-allied eastern Europe (Source businessinsider.com) The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is a political and geographic anomaly. Separated from Russia and situated on the Baltic Sea, the region is surrounded by NATO-member states Poland and Lithuania. It’s closer to Berlin and Prague than it is to Moscow and St Petersburg. Until 1945, Kaliningrad was known as Königsberg, the former capital of East Prussia. But after its World War II victory over Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union annexed the city and the surrounding area, which served as a strategically vital warm-water port on the Baltic. The Soviets mounted a policy of Russification, and what was once an overwhelmingly German quickly took on its current, Russian character. Throughout the Cold War, Kaliningrad was as a dagger pointed at Scandinavia and Central Europe. That part of the Baltic coast was one of the most heavily militarized regions in the USSR. The exclave still has great military and strategic value for Moscow, especially given Russian president Vladimir Putin’s appetite for stirring up trouble with his neighbors. Russia’s new military doctrine named Kaliningrad as one of three fronts for militarization and Moscow sent nuclear capable missiles to the region as part of war games last week.