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Between geopolitics and the pandemic: the Baltic-Black Sea region in an era of global crisis. Results of 2020

09:15, 21-го грудня 2020 · Джерело: institutedd.org

Between geopolitics and the pandemic: the Baltic-Black Sea region in an era of global crisis. Results of 2020
2020 is coming to the end. The year is definitely difficult. Probably the hardest in decades. No wonder the American magazine "Time" called 2020 because, in particular, the coronavirus pandemic, the worst in modern history. However, despite COVID-19 and, as a result, the economic downturn, 2020 has been full of events for the Baltic-Black Sea region, which could have important consequences for the countries in it.

It would be reasonable to mention that the space between the Baltic and Black Seas has always been at the intersection of geopolitical interests of major players. He often acted as a kind of bastion between West and East. And quite often the peoples of the area became victims of the surrounding dominants.

The consequences of such a neighborhood are well known to all: huge losses of human lives, the decline of state traditions, the division into spheres of influence, and so on. No wonder the American writer Timothy Snyder called this part of the European continent "bloody lands". And it's hard to disagree with him.

Unfortunately, over time, the situation has not changed. Moreover, geopolitical competition for the spread of influence in the Mediterranean has begun to grow.

The post-Soviet space should be highlighted, which is perhaps the most vulnerable. After all, the fact of the collapse of the USSR - "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century" - from the very beginning of Vladimir Putin's presidency did not give the latter peace of mind.

The consequences of the Kremlin's revisionist policy are well known to all: the attack on Georgia, aggression against Ukraine, permanent energy blackmail, fueling various crises, and so on. And it often seemed that Moscow's neo-imperial ideology and hybrid actions would sooner or later bear fruit.

For some time it was so. However, 2020 has made its adjustments to the geopolitical agenda of the Baltic-Black Sea region. Events such as Ukraine's membership in NATO's Enhanced Capabilities Program, popular disobedience in Belarus, the Second Karabakh War, and the Kremlin's disappointing presidential election in Moldova (and all in a pandemic) have called into question the implementation of Russia's expansionist plans.

Moreover, the victory of Joseph Biden in the US presidential election is hardly a good signal for the Russian government. It is no secret that Donald Trump's often irresponsible policies and the crisis that have arisen have suited the Kremlin, freeing the latter's hands to carry out neo-imperial adventures.

It would be reasonable to mention another feature of 2020. This is a saturation of anniversaries, which to some extent has played a positive role for the Mediterranean countries.

It is no secret that the most favorable for the neighboring peoples were the events that united them. Especially to achieve a great goal. A clear example is the events of 1920, when Ukrainians, Poles and other nations agreed to recognize each other's independence, while joining forces to fight a common enemy.

In fact, the celebration of the centenary of turbulent events reminded us of how much can be achieved when unification progresses are replaced by strife, strife and fratricidal wars. And the unveiling of monuments to common heroes, as was the case near Warsaw, is a clear example of this.

It is symbolic that in the year of the century of joint victory, the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania signed a joint declaration on the establishment of a tripartite platform for political, economic, cultural and social cooperation - the "Lublin Triangle".

The new regional cooperation, which was established in Lublin - the city where the union of the same name was proclaimed, reflects the search for a so-called "lands in between" cooperation project that would give the countries of the region an additional way to confront Russia and to promote common interests in the West.

Among the most important parts of the declaration are the commitment never to recognize the Russian occupation of Ukrainian Crimea and Sevastopol, to promote military cooperation between the three countries and with NATO, and to use the format to coordinate responses to security challenges and more broadly.

The document emphasizes the strategic importance of intensifying cooperation between the European Union, NATO and the Eastern Partnership countries, and notes the importance of effective cooperation within the framework of the "Three Seas Initiative". The Declaration on the Establishment of the Lublin Triangle also contains a commitment to provide mutual support in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which is now extremely important.

Another thing of notice that most of the Mediterranean countries are part of the so-called "Three Seas" format, the fifth anniversary of which was celebrated in 2020.

The Trimoria Initiative is a flexible policy platform comprising 12 EU Member States between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas (Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic). The association aims to promote cooperation between member states and their partners, economic growth and energy security, as well as to strengthen cohesion and unity in Europe.

The topic of economic development is key in the Trimory program. Every year it becomes more practical. Thus, in September 2018, at the third summit of the association in Bucharest, six countries signed a memorandum on the establishment of a joint investment fund for the implementation of key projects in the region.

The first investors were Poland and Romania, which agreed to allocate 520 million euros for the Initiative. This year, these countries were joined by Latvia and Estonia, which offered to contribute 20 million euros to the investment fund. Thus, the total size of the fund should be 560 million euros.

The Tallinn Summit, which took place on October 19-20, 2020, is another investment achievement. Poland, as the largest country of the Initiative, has announced the allocation of additional funds to finance projects in the region. Thus, the board of the Bank of National Economy (BGK) decided to increase the Polish share to 250 million euros.

What will these funds be spent on? Three sectors are crucial for the development of the Trimor Sea countries: sustainable transport infrastructure (railways, inland waterways, ports, highways), energy infrastructure and digital infrastructure. Funds from the investment fund will be one of the sources of their financing, along with EU funds and private investors.

In total, the estimated investment needs of the countries in the region are approximately 540 billion euros. More than half of this amount is allocated to infrastructure projects, including Via Carpatia and Via Baltica. According to Polish President Andrzej Duda, the coronavirus pandemic is showing a growing demand for digital solutions. This means that in the coming years, the countries of the "Three Seas" will have to change the vector of investment and direct more funds to digitalization.

It should be focused that one of the topics of the Tallinn summit was the further development of the Three Seas Initiative. In this context, the heads of state have repeatedly raised the issue of possible participation in the organization and closer cooperation with other countries, including Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of the Western Balkans.

The next Trimory summit will take place in Sofia. Given the threatening situation in the Black Sea, due to Russia's efforts to turn it into an inland lake, security in the Black Sea should become one of the key topics of the meeting.

It is a good fact that at the end of 2020 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution "The problem of militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine), as well as parts of the Black and Azov Seas." After all, this indicates that the Crimean and Black Sea issues remain in the center of attention of the international community.

Considering the region of Central and Eastern Europe as a business and geopolitical partner, the United States became interested in the Trimory Initiative, which significantly strengthens the region's subjectivity and weakens the influence of Russia and China, which prefer to view it as their sphere of influence. That is why US President Trump attended the Warsaw Summit of the Three Seas. And according to some members of Biden's team, the newly elected leader of America will also give priority to the "Three Seas Initiative".

Thus, it can be stated that even though 2020 turned out to be a difficult year for both the world and the Baltic-Black Sea region, it also became quite rich in various events, the consequences of which will be positive for some actors and others. - negative. But how exactly the situation will develop - time will tell. However, given the unpredictability of modern geopolitical processes and the protracted nature of the pandemic crisis, we can assume that humanity in general and the peoples of the region in particular should expect new surprises.

Stanislav Zhelikhovsky
candidate of political sciences, leading specialist of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine named after Gennady Udovenko at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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