Originally published by Valdai Discussion Club
The benefits for security and political stability enjoyed by countries and regions with infrastructure connectivity may appear absolutely straightforward. On a purely intuitive level, it is easy to conclude that large-scale international infrastructure projects have a strong positive impact on participating states and their relations. Such projects generate new opportunities and, accordingly, interests that are mostly shared or compatible and are often of non-competitive in nature. To ensure that infrastructure projects steadily create benefits and opportunities, countries, business communities and individuals need stability, predictability, and transparent rules. Therefore, in addition to economic effects, major infrastructure initiatives can always be expected to have framework effects, primarily, in the sphere of political stability and security.
However, creative international initiatives, including infrastructure projects, do not exist in a vacuum. Whatever goals their proponents may have in mind, the design phase invariably involves structural factors of international relations and the specifics of interactions between state and non-state actors. Therefore, when discussing the possibilities of using large infrastructure projects to construct less conflict-prone systems of regional and interregional relations, it is important not to get carried away. Positive expectations must be tempered by realism.
First, minimal conditions must be met to harmonize and successfully implement a large-scale infrastructure project, such as trust and efficient communication between the participating countries. In some ways, this is a Chicken-Egg dilemma. The very idea of an international infrastructure project should help build confidence and establish an effective multi-tier communication. However, without these factors available at a minimal level from the get-go, the launch of a large project represents an excessive risk to its initiators and investors, and is often a non-starter.
Second, in addition to the positive effects of infrastructure projects that promote the settlement of conflicts, one can expect effects which, on the contrary, threaten to rekindle old conflicts or prepare the ground for new ones.
Finally, infrastructure plans may prove to have no influence on regional security and conflicts – neither positive, nor negative. As a result, even the most ambitious and well-resourced projects can fade out under the pressure of existing problems and differences.
Based on these general theoretical assumptions, this paper analyses the possible effects of transcontinental infrastructure projects for political stability and security in Eurasia, particularly, in Eastern Europe.