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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Tuesday, 27.06.2017, 10:10

U.S. engagement in the Baltic Region

Shawn Waddoups, Chief Political and Economic Section U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Baltic Rim Economies, www.utu.fi, 15.06.2017.Print version
When Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland requested and received U.S. and NATO military support following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, it garnered massive attention – and rightly so. The measured response to Russian aggression, which supplemented on-going training, exercises, and Baltic Air Policing, demonstrated U.S. commitment to the region’s security and stability, and helped to ease the increasing anxiety resulting from Russia’s actions. As important as this was, defense cooperation is but one facet of U.S. engagement in the Baltic region. Equally important are the commercial, scientific, education, and other ties that round out one of the most dynamic sets of relations the United States has anywhere in the world.

U.S. engagement with Allies and partners surrounding the Baltic Sea – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden – is grounded in a series of bilateral and multilateral relationships that support and complement one another. Trade, investment, and cooperative innovation flourish in the region. In 2015, total trade between the United States and these countries was over $215 bln. Nearly every major U.S. company has a presence in the region, and for many it is a key market. Mergers, like Nokia’s acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, create even closer integration. The total stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in the area at the end of 2015 exceeded $160 bln, while investment from these countries in the United States reached almost $400 bln and accounted for over 935,000 jobs.


U.S. and Baltic region scientific researchers and universities are engaged in significant exchanges and joint research. In Finland alone, over 200 U.S. government scientists and researchers attended conferences, presented lectures, or collaborated on research during 2016, and this does not include the even greater numbers from private research institutions. U.S. embassies and the regional Environment, Science, Technology and Health Hub in Copenhagen, as well as U.S. departments and agencies such as the Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and national laboratories all contribute to these exchanges.


Shared concern for the Baltic environment creates opportunities for collaboration between U.S. and regional scientists. A prime example was the workshop hosted at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki in May 2016 with the John Nurminen Foundation on protecting the Baltic Sea, including the NutriTrade project to address nutrient pollution.


Activities like this at U.S. embassies around the region help forge partnerships for local NGOs and experts with their U.S. counterparts.


Energy security is also increasingly important, so the United States continues to work with Baltic partners to diversify fuels, sources, and routes to minimize the risk of depending on one large supplier.


Beyond the scientific community, other academic exchanges are an important area of U.S.-Baltic connection. In 2015, almost 18,000 U.S. students studied in the eight Baltic region nations. The U.S. government awarded 298 Fulbright grants to U.S. educators, scholars, and researchers to work in theregion during the 2016-17 academic year. Other private programs and exchanges multiply that number dramatically, not to mention the thousands of high school and university students from the region who study in the United States each year. Of all the relationships between Americans and people from the Baltic region, none are more enduring than those formed through these exchanges.


Mindful that promoting regional peace and security facilitates and enables this multi-faceted engagement, the United States concluded defense cooperation agreements with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania earlier this year, and signed defense cooperation statements of intent with Finland and Sweden in 2016. At the February 2017 Munich Security Conference, Vice President Pence met with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and assured NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that “in the wake of Russian efforts to redraw international borders by force, the United States will continue its leadership role in the Enhanced Forward Presence Initiative and other critical joint actions.” Even beyond the region, these nations surrounding the Baltic Sea are some of our closest partners in promoting shared values and addressing global challenges.


From peacekeeping, supporting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and countering ISIS, to promoting global health and development, we know we can count on this group of friends. For all of these reasons, the United States is, and will remain, deeply engaged in the Baltic region.

 

 






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