President Levits, Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs, thank you and all in Latvia’s government for your leadership of the Three Seas Initiative over the past year, and for hosting this timely summit.
I’m honored to have the opportunity to address so many heads of state and other distinguished representatives from some of our closest allies and partners.
Since its launch in 2015, the Three Seas Initiative has always been about more than just boosting investment in the region’s economic development.
It has been about building on the region’s shared interests and values – democracy, transparency, the rule of law, free markets – and the recognition that the member states are better positioned to expand opportunity if they are more connected with one another…with the rest of Europe…and with fellow democracies like ours.
The United States has been invested in the success of this effort from day one, because we know that the international rules-based order is stronger with a more integrated, prosperous, and democratic Central and Eastern Europe.
The Russian Government’s war of aggression on Ukraine has made the work of the Three Seas Initiative even more urgent – for all its members and partners, and for each of the initiative’s areas of focus: energy, transportation, and digital communications.
Even before February 24th, achieving greater energy security required the diversification of sources, supply routes, and types of energy.
The European Union’s embargo on Russian oil and its plan to significantly reduce Russian natural gas imports has made this work a necessity.
Greater energy independence will make member states less vulnerable to the Kremlin’s coercion.
And it will deprive the Russian Government of massive resources that it has used to helped bankroll its attack on the independence of Ukraine – not to mention several other countries in recent years.
Across the region, the path to energy independence is increasingly runs through renewable and carbon-free energy.
This will move the region – and the world – closer to the targets our nations set at COP26, which are vital to preserving our majestic planet and adapting to the changes already affecting the region.
As President Biden so often points out, it also offers a once-in-generations opportunity to create sustainable, good-paying jobs.
Second, President Putin’s war of choice has highlighted the critical importance of strong transportation infrastructure.
The region’s roads, rails, and airfields have been used by NATO to move personnel and equipment in order to reinforce the Alliance’s eastern flank.
They’ve been used to get life-saving humanitarian and security assistance into Ukraine; and to get nearly six million civilians out of Ukraine – most of whom have found refuge and remarkable generosity in your countries.
And finally, as the Russian military continues to block Ukraine from exporting grain by sea, this same transportation infrastructure is increasingly vital for getting food out of Ukraine, so that it can reach tens of millions of people at risk of starvation in the growing global food security crisis.
Third, Russia’s aggression is a stark reminder of the need for strong digital communications networks in the region.
For years, the Russian government has exploited digital network vulnerabilities to undermine democracies, including in the Three Seas region.
Since launching its war on Ukraine, the Kremlin has deployed cyber attacks to target the country’s government and civilian infrastructure.
The fact that these networks are also used to share sensitive information among Allies and partners makes their security and resilience all the more crucial.
In each of these three priority areas, Three Seas Member Countries are taking meaningful steps, often with the support of the United States.
To give just a few examples: Poland has invested in the Baltic Pipeline to import Norwegian gas via Denmark, fully ending its reliance on Russian imports.
Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia stopped importing Russian gas, and have committed to increasing green energy production.
Romania passed legislation that will keep untrusted vendors out of the development of its 5G network.
We’re working across the region to support the development of safe, clean, and affordable nuclear energy – from providing technical support to helping develop projects with U.S. reactor technology.
And in nearly all of the Member States, the U.S. private sector has long been the largest source of foreign direct investment outside of Europe.
Some of America’s most successful companies are taking part in the summit’s Business Forum, which is testament to the prospects they see in the region.
We are stepping up to do more.
The CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Scott Nathan, is leading our interagency delegation to this year’s summit, and will address the group shortly.
I’ll leave the announcement to Scott, but I’m pleased to share that the DFC will be providing major new financing for the Three Seas Investment Fund, which will catalyze even more private investment in the region.
There’s a reason that President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary of Defense Austin, Commerce Secretary Raimundo, and I – among so many others in this administration – have traveled to the Three Seas region in the last year.
We know this effort matters more now than ever.
It matters for advancing the long-term prosperity of Central and Eastern Europe.
It matters for strengthening a Europe that is united, democratic, and free.
It matters for deepening the resilience of Allies on NATO’s Eastern Flank.
And ultimately, it matters for showing that – if we work together – democracies can deliver on meeting the most fundamental needs of our people.
For all those reasons and more, I wish you a very productive summit.