The Intermarium, lands between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, have received a generous farewell present from President Donald Trump: a whopping $300 million for energy projects in the region.
It is not a free ride, another example of wanton squandering of U.S. taxpayers’ money. It is actually a sound investment to advance American interests in the region.
The idea of the Intermarium is to foster regional cooperation between nation states, both EU and non-EU members. Historically, when the Intermarium was united, it engendered Europe’s arguably freest polity. It was also strong enough to defend itself and keep predatory neighbors at bay. That is what U.S. policy should aim for. While not abandoning our NATO commitments, we could delegate the defense of Europe to these nations, and focus on countering China globally.
It will be a while before the nations of the Intermarium are ready to take on this burden. In addition to various challenges stemming from centuries of foreign subjugation, most recently by the Nazis and Soviets in the 20th century, they also have a crippling legacy of domestic Communism and post-Communism to overcome.
In 1989, a series of grassroot revolts, in conjunction with palace coups and behind-the -scene elite deals, which facilitated the political and economic survival of the Communist leaderships, returned the nations of the Intermarium to the international scene. It also initiated a long internal struggle against the post-Communists as well as triggered a process of reclaiming sovereignty, solidarity, prosperity and security without.
To that end, most nations of the region believed it was a good idea to join NATO. Only America’s nuclear umbrella saved Western Europe from Soviet Communism during the Cold War. The role of the United States as a protector of the weak and the guarantor of peace on the Old Continent has not changed. Thus, the former slaves of the Soviets joined NATO in waves.
They also signed up for the European Union; some of them are already members, others would like to be. Joining the EU makes economic sense. The idea was to participate in a free trade zone and benefit from the ambience of a common Western culture that most in the Intermarium identify with. Unfortunately, the EU has changed. It has become extremely etatist and centralized. It also experiments in social engineering, including spreading sexual revolution and cultural innovations most in the region object to.
Most importantly, Brussels has turned increasingly anti-American. This is because the British have successfully executed their Brexit, and Germany has increasingly drifted away from the pro-Atlanticist orientation. Berlin tends to swoon at Moscow.
For the Intermarium it is a nightmarish replay of a lethal combination of alliances periodically reforming since the 18th century. Anytime Germany and Russia collude, the Intermarium finds itself subjugated and the world finds itself at war. Now there is an additional factor of China: a potentially dangerous combination of powers in a nefarious anti-American alliance.
Only America’s salubrious balancing presence can prevent another global conflict and, in the process, help the Intermarium retain its freedom. Hence, the Trump administration resolved to shore up the nations of the Three Seas region to protect Europe and to counter China and Russia.
America has so far pledged a billion dollars to support energy infrastructure projects in the Intermarium: already constructed or planned in Poland, Croatia and Bulgaria. Once the facilities are up, they will be ready to accept U.S. energy products. This move automatically translates into energy security for the entire EU, provides jobs in the United States and the Intermarium, and weans the Europeans off their dependency on Russia’s gas and oil.
So far, the United States has put $300 million into the Three Seas Investment Fund (TSIF), which holds almost $1.5 billion in pledges and cash. The leading contributors are the Poles with $875 million and Slovenians with $28 million. Hungarians, Romanians, Croats, Bulgarians, and the Balts participate as well as much as they can afford.
There are also private investors, including a British-registered company, the Amber Infrastructure Group. In addition to energy, the TSIF is involved with transportation and digital initiatives.
Under U.S. leadership, the Intermarium nations have undertaken the re-rigging of the transportation and communication infrastructure from the Soviet-time east-west model to the south-north paradigm. This form of regional reintegration helps in trade and defense coordination, among others. One of the examples is a Baltic-Black Sea waterway project currently underway with not only Poland and Lithuania but also Belarus and Ukraine participating.
Strategically, the Intermarium project is designed to keep the region sovereign by fostering a close alliance with the United States. This entails, for example, countering Bejing.
Unlike many EU countries, Poland and her neighbors are more reluctant to engage themselves with China. This is not only achieved through robust Trans-Atlanticism but also by countering the Chinese efforts to penetrate the Old Continent, for instance, as Poland has done, by turning down the efforts of Huawei to dominate the regional market.
Let’s hope the pro-American trend continues, so the Intermarium nations can ultimately lift for themselves. But they cannot manage quite on their own yet. They need the United States. Will they still have an ear in Washington, D.C., after Trump’s gone?
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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