Three Seas Initiative: latest phase of Intermarium project to cordon off Russia from Europe

Zbigniew Brzezinski in his last two books, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997) and Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power (2012), promoted the concept of a Weimar Triangle – France, Germany and Poland – becoming the major power in a united post-Cold War Europe.

Germany, with the largest economy and biggest population, was to be the major partner; with a residual influence in Africa and the Mediterranean, France would be the second (in Grand Chessboard he basically compares France to an aged courtesan who must be flattered to keep her complacent); and Poland would be the emergent third power that would keep the Russian barbarian at the gate.

The third nation, Brzezinski’s homeland, was appointed the role of initiating the century-old project of Polish general and prime minister Józef Piłsudski to unite nations that were successor states to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in different historical configurations as well as other modern nations in territories lying between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, hence the name assigned to the plan: Intermarium. An affiliated program, Prometheism, was designed to separate non-Russian populations in Russia from ethnic Russians. The second plan arguably was effected with the dissolution of the Soviet Union into fifteen new ethnically-defined nations in 1991.

In the intervening thirty years Poland has been at the center of several initiatives to consolidate a political, economic and, through NATO, military cordon sanitaire along Russia’s western border.

The most recent is the Three Seas Initiative. The three seas in question are precisely those that defined the Intermariam project: the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. As a Polish government news source phrased it: “The Polish-led Three Seas Initiative aims to boost infrastructure, energy and business ties among 12 countries between the Black, Baltic and Adriatic Seas.”

It is also if not primarily a geopolitical formation. It includes a dozen countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. All but Austria are nations inducted into NATO from 1999 to 2008, though Austria belongs to the Partnership for Peace. All twelve are in the European Union.

The Three Seas Initiative nations began a two-day summit in Sofia, Bulgaria on July 8. The Three Seas Summit and Business Forum is to, according to the Polish president’s chief of staff, Krzysztof Szczerski, focus on issues that include “a new shape of transatlantic relations.” That’s a substantially broader purview than one of the Baltic-to-Adriatic mandate the group acknowledges. It is a grander vision even than that of an expanding European Union. Transatlantic in the current context means relations between Europe and North America and that means NATO. Szczerski identified the initiative’s main partners as Germany, the European Union and the U.S., “with France, Britain, Greece and Japan also interested in teaming up.”

The Three Seas Initiative complements the Lublin Triangle (note the similarity with Brzezinski’s Weimar Triangle), established explicitly on the model of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, consisting of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. The Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade, soon to be trained by the U.S. military in Ukraine, is the military component of that alliance.

Both the above organizations in turn overlap with the Bucharest Nine, which is comprised of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. That group held a virtual summit at the end of May that was addressed by U.S. President Joe Biden. The White House readout for the event states in part:

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with NATO’s eastern flank Allies in a virtual summit of the Bucharest Nine (B9) countries hosted by Presidents Klaus Iohannis of Romania and Andrzej Duda of Poland. President Biden underscored his commitment to rebuilding alliances and strengthening Transatlantic relations. He conveyed his desire for closer cooperation with our nine Allies in Central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions on the full range of challenges….President Biden expressed his support for enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defense posture, as well as the importance of Allies increasing their resilience against harmful economic and political actions by our strategic competitors. In addition, he welcomed the opportunity to engage with these Allies – as well as with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was also in attendance – about Alliance efforts to meet future threats, which will be discussed at the June 14 NATO Summit.”

Regional alliances along Russia’s western borders are not strictly regional, nor are what are portrayed as merely energy and business alliances without geopolitical and military dimensions.

And Poland is always at the heart of those alliances and initiatives.

Crossing the line from the Polish Intermariam to the Prometheism project of a century ago, in 2008 Poland proposed to the European Union’s General Affairs and External Relations Council a plan that became the Eastern Partnership program to wean those former Soviet republics in Europe, including the Caucasus, not already in the EU and NATO (as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were at the time) away from the Commonwealth of Independent States and other post-Soviet groupings led by Russia (which was expressly not invited) such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Community. Those targeted countries were: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. All six were members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace at the time.

When then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych delayed signing an association agreement with the EU as part of the Eastern Partnership, a Western-instigated uprising began that culminated in the overthrow of his government and the start of a war in the Donbass that persists to this day.

The government of Belarus, under siege by the triumvirate of the U.S., NATO and EU, has recently withdrawn from the Eastern Partnership.

A century-long plan to fragment and isolate Russia, one devised by Poland before the Soviet Union existed and which has intensified since its disappearance, is moving in a multifaceted manner at breakneck pace along the entire front of what the White House terms NATO’s Eastern Flank. Poland is the linchpin in the operation.