Some of the processes that may shortly change the existing system of relations in Europe are going unnoticed. Though not being covered in the press or analyzed by experts, they are forming the core of a new Europe. Few Russian mass media noticed the Three Seas Initiative, a declaration signed during a two-day regional forum in Dubrovnik in late Aug. Seemingly insignificant, this initiative has marked a new stage of the anti-Russian campaign in the former Socialist camp. And Croatia is seeking to become its coordinator in Southeastern Europe.
The Dubrovnik forum convoked representatives of 12 EU member-states from the so-called BABS or Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea region. There were also delegates from Albania, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Turkey as well as guests from the United States and China. Russia was not invited. And that was not a surprise.
This initiative is not new. In Poland it has deep historical roots, dating back to the medieval Polish empire. The Poles are eager to revive this concept and see it as an EU-sponsored project based on political confidence and joint strategy. In fact, this is supposed to be an anti-Russian Poland-led camp comprising Central and Eastern Europe. The Poles were unable to realize this project alone, so, they decided to look for partners and have found the Croats.
Today, Croatia is the EU’s favorite in the Balkans and its most reliable partner in the region. So, it was not a surprise that it was Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović who initiated the BABS project as a platform for coordinating the work of gas infrastructures in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
According Grabar-Kitarović, BABS is the key element of Croatia’s policy. Its basic goal is to make Europe less dependent on Russian gas. This is in line with Croatia’s efforts to build an LNG terminal on Krk and Ionian-Adriatic gas pipeline. Officially, the joint efforts of the Croats and the Poles, who are also planning to build an LNG terminal in Świnoujście, are supposed to guarantee the energy security of the BABS nations. But, at a closer look, this project is not very much like an energy platform as there is a lot of politics there.
The Croatian President’s phrase that the ideological guideline for this initiative should be the experience of co-existence in the Habsburg Monarchy proves that the Croats have far-reaching plans here. Grabar-Kitarovic already sees herself as the EU’s supervisor in the Balkans. Croatia’s wish to be the boss in Southeastern Europe must have been inspired by the Americans, who see BABS as a good way to weaken Russia’s influence in Europe. For them gas is a geopolitical weapon. BABS is their response to Russia’s Nord and South Streams. US General James Jones made it clear in Dubrovnik that the Russians are using energy as a means of pressure on Europe. By uniting the energy systems of Northern and Southern Europe, BABS will strike the enemy with its own weapon. So, the key goal of this initiative is Russia rather than energy security.
In any case, this initiative is just taking shape. In Dubrovnik the sides agreed to pool efforts to organize mutual support against energy crises and new geopolitical challenges and also to try to implement Via Baltica or Via Capathia transport project. The next round of the talks is scheduled to take place in Wroclaw in June 2017. So, for the moment, this is more like an informal club of regional nations seeking to lobby their common interests in Brussels. Ukraine has not yet been invited into it. But if realized, this initiative will be a serious blow for Russia as it will block its gas pipelines and will fuel anti-Russian moods in the region. Croatia, Poland and the Baltics will hardly miss one more chance to spread Russophobia and this is what they in Washington want.
Just like all the other EU “energy” projects, BABS has no economic basis and is fully dependent on geopolitics. Today, geopolitics in Europe and around the world is mostly anti-Russian, so, this project is just one more instrument to make the Kremlin weaker. Whatever this project is, the Croats’ endeavors to pose as its initiators and coordinators are ridiculous as they will not decide anything here and will just do what the authors of the new European-American anti-Russian policy will tell them to do.
Yuri Pavlovets, specially for EADaily