Running through the Vistula Spit, the new canal is designed to allow ships to enter the Polish port of Elbląg without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad region, according to officials.
During the opening ceremony Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said "today we can see new investments opening up new possibilities" for a large part of Poland's coast, making it independent from Russia.
President Andrzej Duda added that while "Poland had other ports to receive goods from the biggest container ships" the canal was of strategic and symolical importance for Poland, because it allows access to the Vistula Lagoon, without the need to pass through Russian territory.
The canal "is ready to be used, it is modern, and it is fully equipped," Duda added.
Deputy Infrastructure Minister Marek Gróbarczyk called the new waterway “a historic and groundbreaking project” amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Waterway to 'strengthen Poland's sovereignty'
Linking Elbląg with the Bay of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, the 23-kilometre-long, 5-metre-deep waterway will “help enhance Poland’s military as well as economic sovereignty,” according to the country’s conservative leader Jarosław Kaczyński.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has said the canal will "strengthen Poland's sovereignty and enhance its independence and freedom."
Meanwhile, the project is being viewed as a threat by Russia, according to the US think tank the Jamestown Foundation.
In the Kremlin’s view, the sole aim of the new Polish waterway is “to give North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) warships access to Kaliningrad Bay (Vistula Lagoon), without having to first pass close by the Russian military facilities at Baltiysk,” the think tank said in a 2020 analysis.
On September 17, 1939, Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union invaded Poland following a secret agreement with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Poland was then caught between German Nazi forces advancing from the west and Soviet forces from the east during the first stage of World War II in Europe.
Source: IAR, PAP