The “Belt and Road” or the “Gap and Load”? Hard Infrastructure and Security in the Baltic States

Monday, March 27, 2017
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building)

Please join us for a talk with Dr. Konstantinas Andrijauskas, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and International Politics at Vilnius University, Lithuania, and Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Columbia University.

The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania share a historically extremely precarious, but also potentially lucrative geostrategic position, which throughout the last several years has become of interest to the promoters of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The three “Baltic sisters”, however, are aware of the strategic nature of hard infrastructure precisely due to their peculiar negative experience during both the Soviet occupation and post-Soviet interaction with their direct neighbors to the east. The crucial case of Lithuania as the southernmost and the largest of the three countries demonstrates the nature of the strategic dilemma between opportunities and threats of eastern-bound transnational infrastructural projects. Despite the politically sensitive and opaque option of the BRI, the Balts are forced to prioritize the traditional harder (the so-called “Suwalki Gap”) and softer (e.g. transit of particularly important cargoes) security issues, which China would find hard to fully appreciate.

Dr. Konstantinas Andrijauskas is an associate professor of Asian Studies and International Politics at Vilnius University (Lithuania), formerly a senior visiting scholar at the Fudan and Zhejiang universities (China), and currently a Fulbright visiting scholar at Columbia. His research interests include East Asian and post-Soviet politics and international relations. His current research project deals with regional and global strategic implications of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative.