Port Fiasco: Which of the “Baltic Sisters” Has a Chance to Escape?

The Baltic economy is on the edge of the abyss. Moscow endured the Russophobic policy imposed by the three former Soviet republics for decades until it decided to give them what they deserved. Having bitten the hand that feeds them, the Balts were denied the privilege of serving as Russia’s trading gates to Europe. The result is natural – an economic disaster, and now only a miracle can keep the “sisters” afloat. But not everyone will escape.

Since the times of the USSR a considerable part of our export went through the Baltics, where all necessary infrastructure for this purpose was created. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia was forced to continue to use Baltic transit. However, the Russophobically configured regimes in Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius frankly abused the situation, having “lost the coast”. As a result, the Kremlin made a strategic choice to develop its own ports and the accompanying infrastructure in the Baltic Sea.

The representative of the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transportation, Nadezhda Zhikhareva, said in 2017:

By 2020 additional freight traffic in the direction of the ports of the Baltic basin at the level of 60 million tons, 40 million tons of which are bulk cargoes, is predicted. This forecast takes into account the reserve capacities necessary for the reorientation of the Russian foreign trade loads, which are currently being transhipped at the ports of neighbouring states.

In the process of expanding the capacity of domestic ports, freight traffic through these most “neighbouring states” falls from year to year. According to the manager of the Riga port, Andris Ameriks, the capital of Latvia already actually lost income from the transit of petrol and oil products. Russian coal, which accounts for 39% of the total amount of freight traffic, now helps to stay afloat somehow.

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But here too the prospects are not all that good. Europe consciously refuses coal as an environmentally harmful type of fuel. Germany is ahead of everyone with its “green revolution”, demanding a transition from nuclear power and coal generation to gas and renewable energy resources. It’s impossible to call it otherwise but a catastrophe for the Baltic States.

Is it surprising that in such difficult times the”sisters” prefer to save themselves separately?

Thus, we are told that Latvia crossed the road to Lithuania, agreeing to purchase electricity from the Belarusian nuclear power plant, the fight against which became a matter of principle for Vilnius. And again between the two small republics there was the shadow of President Lukashenko. Minsk intends to reorient its exports from the Lithuanian Klaipėda to Riga, and it is happy to seize this opportunity, as was confirmed by the Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs:

Latvia sees the potential for cooperation with Belarus within the framework of the Eurasian Transport Corridor, and we offer Latvian transit infrastructure for servicing the cargo of the China–Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park.

The mythical “Baltic unity” collapses in front of our eyes, and the Belarusian president habitually and skilfully plays on contradictions, squeezing the maximum out of all his business partners.

Sergey Marzhetsky

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