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Putin is a bigger deal than European elections in European frontline states – POLITICO

This larger region has an evocative name: the Suwałki Gap, long considered one of the most dangerous potential flashpoints in a war between Russia and the West. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, some analysts have suggested that this part of Poland would be the next target. Dotted with sparsely populated villages, green farmland and yellow rapeseed, it is a key strategic bridge to Kaliningrad.

“All this talk about the Suwałki Gap scares away potential tourists,” Atkielski said. Three years ago, before Russia invaded Ukraine, he began building several hotels and has since had to suspend the project after seeing a sharp drop in tourist numbers.

Memories of World War II, when the Polish army surrendered the region without fighting advancing Soviet troops, remain vivid.

Under communist rule, northeastern Poland had almost as many military bases as towns. They began closing in the early 2000s, but have been reactivated since Russia’s sustained military activity over the past decade. Suwalki’s own base has grown and NATO troops conduct frequent exercises in the area, to the point that locals like Karol Szulc have begun to notice the effects.

The idea of ​​seeing tanks, even allied ones, rolling through the peaceful countryside alienated visitors, said Szulc, a local tour guide and amateur historian.

Not a single tank, Russian or otherwise, was visible that day, despite signs on the roads crisscrossing the rolling countryside warning cars to give way to armed convoys.


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