A statement highlighting US support for the Three Seas Initiative brought together a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio and Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Jeanne Shaheen of NewHampshire.
In their written statement in June, the five senators stressed:
The Three Seas Initiative illustrates the importance of investing in critical regional cooperation to diversify energy sources, making Europe stronger, better connected and more resilient. … And we support the initiative undertaken by the members of the Three Seas Initiative to work together to identify and respond to their shared challenges.
In recent years, various regional cooperation initiatives have been explored, formed and carried out throughout emerging Central and Eastern Europe. The Three Seas Initiative, also called 3SI, is the most notable case study and needs to be further prioritized and pursued.
Indeed, the task of making the Three Seas Initiative more operational in practice has become more urgent and necessary.
The Three Seas Initiative held its inaugural summit in 2016 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and annual summits and business forums have been held in all member states ever since.
The initiative was launched to promote connectivity between nations in the Black, Adriatic and Baltic Sea regions, supporting infrastructure, energy and digital projects. Its importance includes geopolitical, economic and energy security aspects.
The 12 countries of the initiative are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
As part of the Soviet legacy, the East-West infrastructure remains more developed and advanced than the North-South links. This gap in infrastructure development has been a growing problem for the Three Seas Initiative states, as well as for Europe as a whole, particularly for the European Union’s ongoing but rather slow quest for energy independence. .
The dominance of east-west pipelines and limited alternatives to those pipelines have been the central factor in the continued energy dependency of Russia’s regions.
From a broader foreign policy perspective, the Three Seas Initiative can and should offer the US and Europe an alternative model of engagement to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Europe and the dwindling framework of Beijing 17+1 cooperative development. 3SI could potentially strengthen NATO’s dual-use infrastructure for advanced collective defense.
In that context, the goal of the Three Seas Initiative has been to implement tangible and pragmatic joint development projects that would operate on commercial terms and address the region’s chronic connectivity deficiencies through increased cooperation.
This year’s 3SI Business Forum and Summit, held in Riga, Latvia, was the first such meeting since Russia’s latest unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, which began on February 24.
The Riga meetings were to assess progress and plan more concrete future steps. Participating political leaders, policymakers, and business representatives discussed the challenges and prospects of ongoing projects in the energy, transportation, and digitization sectors, among others.
Re-emphasizing the great importance of more effective cooperation in the implementation of strategic projects, particularly in the current geopolitical contexts, the meetings focused on the multiplier role of the Three Seas Initiative as part of the broader European and global efforts of the democratic countries to promote the market and values. connectivity-based investments in the emerging region of Central and Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately, the combination of cross-cutting political, economic and security challenges in the region makes the overall progress of the Three Seas Initiative much more gradual than many expected. The divergent priorities of the 3SI countries, growing uncertainty driven by evolving economic challenges, and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine are some of the key factors forcing the initiative to be less of a game changer.
However, the Three Seas Initiative needs to be targeted and become a practical platform for private sector investors to start and carry out infrastructure development projects. Ultimately, the success of the initiative depends on the creation of public-private partnerships driven by concrete business interaction.
The United States should become a more proactive anchor investor in the Three Seas Initiative. Economic tools, both sanctions and incentives, are central to American statecraft. And such tools deserve a rethink to increase their efficiency.
Ultimately, the 3SI could and should become a viable transatlantic alliance, but only with continued commitment from Washington, Brussels, and the capitals of member nations.
The harsh reality is that while the Three Seas Initiative is still alive and well, few expect it to realize its full potential in the very short term. Yet that is precisely why now is the time to increase focus and engagement.
As New Direction, a European think tank founded in 2009 by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as the intellectual center of European conservatism, noted: “The Three Seas Initiative now represents a golden opportunity to boost the economies of the region and defend the interests of the region. of its members on the world stage.
In fact, the coming months will be the crucial period that will reveal whether the Three Seas Initiative remains just a diplomatic agenda or can become a serious, practical and collaborative project of the transatlantic partnership.
The United States will help itself and its allies more practically by moving to elevate mutually beneficial strategic partnerships, such as the Three Seas Initiative, to a higher operational level.
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