Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

A tale of three seas


 Three seas and two waterways comprise what is arguably the most important geopolitical hub on the planet. The Black Sea, Mediterranean and Red Sea are joined by the Bosporus and the Suez Canal as a vital trade and security crossroads connecting Europe with the MENA countries and Asia.

During the Cold War the Black Sea was dominated by the Warsaw Pact while the Middle East was more (but not exclusively) West leaning. Since then, the EU and NATO have appealed to the littoral states around the Black Sea. The Red Sea region is more fragmented and remains unstable while influence of the superpowers including China has overlapped.

The Black Sea has massive offshore oil & gas reserves close to Ukraine, Romania and Turkey., which will both be producing this year.

NATO, Russia and China have Black Sea interests and so does the EU as a major geopolitical player and de facto superpower albeit an extension of US influence. Every state bordering on the Black Sea bar one is a member or applicant to join the EU as well as NATO. Two are EU and NATO members and the others aspire to be.

Novorossiysk, is Russia's largest Black-sea port, located on its North-East coastline only 106 miles from Kerch in the Crimea, however it has rivals. Georgia has received international funding to expand its ports of Poti and Batumi with EU investment for its deep-sea port of Anaklia for development as a Eurasian trade link.

Turkey is key to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, a member of NATO, it is dependent on Russia for gas and grain and has close links to Beijing.

Turkey hosts the sea's only gateway to European waters through the Bosphorus straight, under which the Marmaray subsea rail tunnel runs into Bulgaria from the East as part of a Belt and Road line that will soon connect Beijing and Paris directly.

Romania has been heralded as a potential European energy powerhouse with its development of nuclear and hydroelectric energy solutions.

The issues affecting the Black Sea and the wider world are not confined to Ukraine/Russian, USA/Ukraine or USA/Russian political history, but extends its length and breadth.

Red sea

Over 10% of seaborne cargo passes through the Red Sea every year including the majority of Asian trade with Europe. It has huge largely as yet untapped oil and gas fields and also contains evaporate deposits, sulphur, phosphates, and the heavy-metals alongside a rich biodiversity.

The EU seems to regard the Horn of Africa and Red Sea as within its sphere of interest. This is not surprising considering that Suez was originally a European project and its importance to European trade. It has a presence in the Horn of Africa through its Common Security and Defence Policy missions such as, Operation Atalanta, EUCAP Somalia, EUTM Somalia.

The Red Sea is of great interest to the USA and NATO, meanwhile China has a naval presence in Djibouti and Russia has agreed with Sudan to establish a naval base at Port Sudan.

With civil war breaking out in Sudan, the likelihood of proxy wars in the area have increased. So, efforts to achieve stability right across the Black/Red hub are urgent.

Three seas

Prior to the Ukraine War Russia and Ukraine had accounted for 75% of traded wheat globally Disruption of grain supplies shows up dependencies on Russia and Ukraine such as Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt. Sudan imported 58% of its wheat, Yemen received 30% and Somalia got half of its supplies via all three seas.

For Europe, the waterways are viewed in terms of trade to and from, whereas for certain MENA countries, the trade through both is vital.

Security cannot be taken for granted anywhere. The Red Sea was the uneasy cousin of the Black until becoming calmer recently, but the events of the last year or so highlight how even a relatively stable waterway is in fact fragile and can be disrupted quickly so affecting an entire region.

It is no wonder that there is growing awareness of the three seas hub and a need for an integration of its security. The result, predictably and counter-productively has been national and superpower self-interest and interference rather than a common global strategy.

Two waterways rule the trade and security of much of the world, two waterways and their national hosts connecting three seas. Such is geopolitics and we ignore such realities at our peril.

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
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