The Three Seas Initiative And Global Britain
In September 2021, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland published a report entitled “Three Seas Initiative and the Opportunities for Global Britain”. He and the report’s three coauthors are British citizens of Polish descent who lobby for cooperation between the two countries. The group’s chair, MP Daniel Kawczynski, is a rather colourful and somewhat odious character. He is a member of the UK Conservative Party and was a vocal advocate of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Back in 2017, he stated that, after leaving the EU, London “must help other countries to protect their sovereignty from Brussels”.
In September 2019, he wrote a letter to Donald Trump asking for help in seeking reparations from Germany for damages suffered during the Second World War.
He is Catholic by religion, but his sexual orientation is non-traditional: he is divorced from his wife, with whom he has a child, and, in November 2019, he married his long-term Brazilian boyfriend.
Kawczynski has been pushing the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) for some time, while also pointing to America’s role in it. In January 2021, he wrote in a US publication: “First, American energy supply curbs Russian dominance in this area, simultaneously providing central and eastern European with strategic deterrence and energy security. Second, Washington uses the 3SI partnership as an instrument against growing Chinese entrenchment in the Balkans. That is most apparent in telecommunications, with the ‘5G Clean Network Security Plan’ – Estonia recently joined the program and initiated its Smart Connectivity project which aims to support digitalisation of 3SI’s borders. Most central and eastern European capitals, similarly to London, are increasingly wary of Beijing and its expanding influence.” At the same time, he also called for Britain to join US sanctions against Nord Stream 2.
All in all, he acts in the spirit of transatlantic cooperation by paying tribute to Washington.
His current report focuses more on UK interests in the 3SI project. Although the US (which is officially an observer) plays a leading role in the project, London has its own reasons to take part in the initiative, and these are made clear in the report. In July 2021, the British foreign secretary spoke at the 3SI Summit in Sophia, effectively recognising the economic and geostrategic importance of both the initiative and the region as a whole.
By that point, five major 3SI summits had been held, and a rapidly growing Three Seas investment fund had been established for infrastructure, energy and interconnectivity projects. So far, more than $300 million has been invested into the initiative’s energy projects, but it is planned that the total amount will soon reach $1 billion. The 3SI covers 30 percent of the EU’s territory, including 12 countries and 112 million inhabitants. The leaders of this bloc are Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Estonia.
Kawczynski writes: “In order for Britain’s new post-Brexit chapter to effectively demonstrate its global ambitions, it must reaffirm her commitments to Europe. The bloc’s economic and political dimensions open the UK’s public and private sector to over 157 energy, infrastructure and digital projects, and provides an alternative to the EU’s framework for cooperation with Britain’s closest allies in Central and Eastern Europe. For the United Kingdom, the Three Seas initiative is therefore not only a project that could accommodate the new post-Brexit global strategy, but also act as a strategic hub of 12 capitals that share London’s vision for a stronger Transatlantic alliance, economic cooperation and development, and multilaterally shaping the international order of the future.”
According to the report, Kawczynski and his coauthors consulted with the ambassadors to the UK of the Three Seas countries, and “[a]ll twelve Ambassadors emphasised that the Three Seas Initiative is not an alternative to the EU – nor is it an attempt to recalibrate or duplicate the current system of the European political order. The 3SI predominantly serves an economic purpose to intensify regional cooperation and interconnectivity. However, a number of Ambassadors also unpacked the Initiative’s geopolitical implications, especially within the context of Russia and China. In terms of the former – increasing liquified [sic] natural gas (LNG) supplies from the United States via the 3SI framework strategically balances against Russia’s growing energy dominance in Europe via infrastructure projects such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Regarding the latter, it seems that for Washington – as well as Tokyo – the 3SI partnership may act as an instrument challenging Beijing’s rapidly growing entrenchment in CEE via rival investment platforms, namely the 17+1 Initiative. The 3SI has therefore naturally developed a geostrategic wing, and from the perspective of H.E. Intelmann, and many others – the Initiative is an effective ‘balancing mechanism’ against geopolitical challenges on the European continent and the Transatlantic community.”
As a result, 32 percent of all 77 priority projects currently presented by the 3SI are energy related. One of these is the LNG terminal built in Croatia’s Krk, which was completed in late 2020. Other projects include the Poland–Lithuania gas pipeline (GIPL), which will connect Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and expand the Baltic states’ access to the wider European energy gas network via Poland, and the Bulgaria–Romania–Hungary (BRUA) pipeline, which will supply the region with Romanian gas from the Black Sea.
As for Chinese influence, senior Western officials have been stressing the strategic threat posed by the 17+1 forum, which aims to promote and increase Chinese investment in Central and Eastern Europe, for years. In March 2021, Lithuania announced that it would be leaving the 17+1 Initiative and called on other EU members to follow suit. The 3SI countries prioritise investments from the “Western bloc”, of course, including Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Obviously, none of this is done without the active encouragement of the US, including attempts to block China’s cooperation with the Balkan states.
There are also historical connections. While the UK was closely involved in the creation of a cordon sanitaire in Eastern Europe during the First World War, now it only needs to provide assistance and receive its share of the various projects while preventing other countries from getting involved.
As noted by George Byczynski, one of the report’s coauthors and chief adviser to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland: “As part of the UK’s post-Brexit global strategy, it needs to find ways to entrench its strong position in Europe rather than allowing potential adversaries to disrupt the European map. Ambassadors of the 12 3SI countries already share London’s vision for a stronger transatlantic economic alliance. They have welcomed UK support … Additionally, investing in the multitude of 3SI projects could bring revenue back to London that will benefit future generations. Participating in international initiatives such as the 3SI would prove that while the UK has left the EU, it has not left Europe, and the intensification of cooperation could help secure more favourable trade terms for the UK. Furthermore, strengthening the 3SI would improve communication with the UK’s closest allies, ensuring the UK’s ability to respond quickly, robustly and effectively to incoming challenges and crises.”
Thus, in addition to cooperation in NATO and bilateral ties, the 3SI is another platform for expanding the influence of Transatlanticism, where the main geopolitical centres of Western Europe – France and Germany – remain on the periphery, and the UK is planning on reaping its own benefits in this new environment. First and foremost, the 3SI and its partners will try to eliminate Chinese and Russian competition.