An Alliance within an Alliance II: CANZUK and the Intermarium

Part I of this series addressed the growing rift within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Part II delves deeper, demonstrating how differing security priorities are not limited to East-Central Europe. Despite headlines to the contrary, both Washington and London seem well aware of these shifts, and are making investments for the future. 


See Part I at the ERA Institute here.

Introduction

“It is a profound honor to stand in this city, by this monument to the Warsaw Uprising, and to address the Polish nation that so many generations have dreamed of:  a Poland that is safe, strong, and free…”

“Now, among the most committed members of the NATO Alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole, and free…A strong Poland is a blessing…to the West and to the world…”

The previous quotes were excerpts from US President Donald Trump’s speech in Warsaw on 6 July 2017. These remarks from the American President were enthusiastically received by the crowd, with cheers being easily audible on recordings of the event. The fact that Trump chose to address the Polish people before his arrival at the G20 summit is clearly symbolic, an indication of Poland’s long-term significance to the new administration. Even newspapers which are less-than-sympathetic to the US President had to acknowledge that he received a hero’s welcome in Poland, a country which has earned something of a celebrity status among conservatives in the western world. 

But this performance overshadowed what may be an even more significant meeting for the US President, the Three Seas Initiative Summit. Described as “incredibly successful” by Trump, the President addressed the leaders of the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, the same countries constituting the “Intermarium” alliance described in part I. “America is eager to expand our partnership with you. We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies and we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy,” the President said, clearly referring to Moscow and re-assuring nervous US allies. 

When Poland and Croatia started the Initiative three years ago, it was intended to be a mechanism for increased economic cooperation among the post-communist states within the EU, who feel their interests have been routinely overlooked in western capitals. Since then however, the grouping has taken on an increasingly political outlook, using itself to balance against the EU core states. As Western leaders have placed increasing pressure on their eastern neighbors, it is no surprise that the Three Seas Initiative has increased in cohesion. Brussels’ attempts at legal action over Czech, Polish, and Hungarian refusal to submit to migration re-settlement quotas has been repeatedly laughed off by East-Central European leaders. Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest show no signs of backing down. Record-levels of assault, terrorism, rape, and crime in Western Europe continue to reinforce their positions, and contribute to the support which the governments in Three Seas Initiative countries have. 

Now, they also enjoy the support of the US Administration.

American Support of the Three Seas Initiative

The mood of President Trump’s meetings in Poland was visibly different from the G20 Summit and Trump’s interactions with Western European leaders. Trump was given a warm welcome by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (whose contact with the US President may date from pre-election) the host of this year’s summit. 

Lest one think that American support for the Initiative is just another example of the President talking off the top of his head, US support for Three Seas has already been made tangible. American liquefied natural gas (LNG) has already been receivedby Poland and Croatia is currently working to make its infrastructure compatible with US shipments. “Whenever you need energy, just give us a call,” Trump said at the Summit, adding that “the United States will never use energy to coerce your nations.”

These developments were reinforced by the re-election of Victor Orban and the Fidesz-KDNP coalition in Hungary in April 2018. Receiving 44.87% of the parliamentary seats, the coalition’s only serious challenger is the Jobbik party (receiving 19.06%), which is even further to the right on the political spectrum. One of the fiercest critics of Brussels’ migration policies, his re-election further demonstrates the growing distance between EU leadership and electorates across the continent. Hungary’s recently-passed “Stop-Soros law” takes this a step further, criminalizing the aid of foreign-funded NGOs seeking to re-settle migrants in Hungary. Such divides are clearly deepening, but this is hardly the only region in which political re-alignments are under way.

CANZUK

As the Brexit reality finally sets in, observant analysts are beginning to notice that the UK is beginning to re-asses its foreign policy priorities. Referred to by some in think-tank-land as CANZUK (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) there are serious proposals for a new alliance of Anglosphere nations to emerge as a new economic (and perhaps military) bloc to balance out the declining European project. Proponents of the idea are divided over the precise details of such an arrangement - a federal or confederal union seems unlikely, however the creation of a free-movement zone, a common trading block, or a new military alliance may well be within realistic reach.

James C. Bennett is perhaps the most outspoken advocate for CANZUK, however other prominent supporters include UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson and UK MEP Daniel Hannan, author of “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World,” typically cited as one of the foundational works of the ‘new Anglosphere.’ 

The Financial Postoffers a few intriguing facts contributing to the popularity of the CANZUK concept:

…in brute terms these four countries [Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK] would obviously constitute a big global player. Between them they would control a surface area of more than 18 million square kilometres, the largest in the world, exceeding even Russia’s 17 million. Their combined population, at 128 million, would be the world’s 10th largest, just ahead of Japan. Their combined military spending of around US$110 billion would be the world’s third largest, behind the U.S. and China but well ahead of Russia.

At US$6.5 trillion in combined GDP, the CANZUK countries would constitute the fourth-largest group in the world, behind the U.S., EU and China. At nearly two-thirds the combined GDP of China, no one could deny that a CANZUK economic grouping would be economically significant. Total global trade of these four countries would be worth more than US$3.5 trillion, versus around US$4.8 trillion for the U.S., US$4.2 trillion for China, or US$1.7 trillion for Japan. These are big numbers by global standards.

The newly unveiled Queen Elizabeth-class supercarrier is another manifestation of a British geopolitical resurgence. Expected to be combat deployable by 2018, the 70,600 ton vessel is planned to be dispatched to the Pacific amid freedom of navigation concerns. This has led to some speculation that Great Britain may be pursuing its own Pacific Pivot. Complete with F-35 jet fighters and a wide array of “Littoral Manoeuvre” helicopters, the Queen Elizabethwill allow Britain to forward-deploy military power on a scale not seen since before the Second World War. 

Just as is the case in Central Europe, Britain is looking to its own defense in the 21stcentury, when existing defense arrangements have proven less-than-effective. Taking the Three Seas and CANZUK together, we are looking at the first new institutions of a 21stcentury west. The Three Seas countries are united not only by their opposition to Brussels, but also their desire to contain undue Russian influence in the region. 

Looking Forward

Both CANZUK and the Three Seas Intermarium are in their early stages of development. It is too early to make precise forecasts about their future, however it is virtually certain that they will continue to endure. The political divisions within Europe, brought to light by the migrant crisis but which have been stirring for over a decade, so no signs of healing, especially as Brussels continues to antagonize its eastern members. In such an environment, the rational course of action is to look to your own interests, preferably in conjunction with like-minded countries. 

The contrast in mood between the Three Seas countries on the one hand, and Western Europe on the other have provided the Trump administration with great incentive to shift its priorities eastward, to more friendly territory. Just as the post-Brexit UK is working to re-acquaint itself with its Commonwealth cousins, East-Central Europe is likely to seek more direct cooperation with the United States, over the head of Brussels. Though not a new idea (George Friedman famously predicted this is in 2009) such a realignment can be expected to speed up in the coming years. Even if the most recent political divisions were not present, the simple reality remains that Western and East-Central Europe have very different security concerns, as outlined in part I. This does not mean that institutions such as NATO need to be abolished, but it does mean that it must adapt to a new reality in which its members do not share a policy consensus. 

To be continued in Part III

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons