The trilateral initiative: How Britain, Poland and Ukraine can shape a post-war Europe

This Report makes the case for immediate renewed trilateral cooperation between the United Kingdom, Poland and Ukraine to reinforce European security on the basis of shared interests. Whilst Ukrainian membership in NATO and the the European Union is pending, this paper asserts that this trilateral initiative would be committed to ensuring a Ukrainian victory and preparing for a robust post-war peace, leaving it as the premium avenue for the three nations to deepen cooperation between each other, as well as with multilateral groupings. Over the longer term, trilateral coordination between Britain, Poland, and Ukraine can help shift the balance of power in favour of a better and more secure Europe – a Europe where Ukraine will not remain an outsider and where Russia will be deterred.

Executive summary

  • On 17th February 2022, Poland, the United Kingdom (UK) and Ukraine agreed to establish a memorandum of understanding to facilitate closer and more structured cooperation between the three countries. Four initial ideas were identified for deeper collaboration: cyber and energy security, countering disinformation, and support for the Crimea Platform.
  • Precisely one week later, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, leading to the largest invasion on European soil since the Second World War. Trilateral cooperation took place during the initial phases as Britain and Poland rushed to Ukraine’s defence, but Ukraine’s effort to resist the Russian lunge towards Kyiv and efforts to acquire membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU) witnessed the deprioritisation of the new format. 
  • In January 2023, the Council on Geostrategy, the Polish Institute of International Affairs and the Foreign Policy Council ‘Ukrainian Prism’ established a commission of experts from the three countries to appraise and identify how trilateral relations could be rekindled in a changed geopolitical environment. In Warsaw in late February and London in June 2023, the three organisations partnered to host two conferences, the deliberations of which form the intellectual inspiration for this Report. 
  • This Report appraises trilateral cooperation to date, before outlining why the format still makes sense, not only by complementing existing multilateral formats – NATO and the EU – but also by boosting the voice of countries which seek to contain Russian aggression. It also explains how trilateral cooperation between Poland, Ukraine and the UK reinforces European security at a time when the United States may be experiencing domestic political upheaval, which might reduce its capacity for underwriting Ukraine and European defence. 
  • After focusing on how Britain and Poland can help Ukraine expedite victory over Russia, the Report identifies five key areas where the three countries should work together in a more coordinated and structured fashion to shape a post-war Europe to their advantage. These include: 
    • Helping Ukraine establish deterrence as it seeks NATO membership;
    • Strengthening the national resilience of the three states; 
    • Consolidating bilateral and trilateral defence-industrial cooperation;
    • Preparing for a robust post-war peace; and, 
    • Boosting connectivity and infrastructure. 
  • Finally, the Report outlines 12 policy recommendations for the three governments to consider to rekindle the trilateral initiative. These recommendations are designed to build on the three nations’ shared interests and principles – most important of which is to resist Russian imperialism and uphold the right of European countries to determine their own affairs – and generate the personal and institutional connections to amplify them. 
  • Reflecting the areas where coordination is most desirable, these recommendations are designed to help expedite a Ukrainian victory over Russian aggression, deter the Kremlin from future aggression, strengthen national resilience in the three countries by countering hostile discourse and disinformation, consolidate defence-industrial cooperation, ease Ukraine’s accession into NATO and the EU, draw the UK deeper in the security of the region between the Baltic and Black seas, and extend communication and energy linkages between Ukraine and other parts of Europe.
  • While the analysis and conclusions drawn in this Report are informed by the Expert Commission, the authors bear ultimate responsibility for its content.

About the authors

Przemysław Biskup is a Senior Analyst in the European Union Programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

Dr Alexander Lanoszka is the Ernest Bevin Associate Fellow in Euro-Atlantic Geopolitics at the Council on Geostrategy and Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Waterloo.

Maria Piechowska is a Ukraine analyst in the Eastern Europe Programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

James Rogers is Co-founder and Director of Research at the Council on Geostrategy, where he specialises in geopolitics and British strategic policy.

Hanna Shelest is a Non-resident Senior Fellow with the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and the Director of Security Programmes at the Foreign Policy Council ‘Ukrainian Prism’.

Dr Marcin Terlikowski is deputy head of the Research and Analysis Office at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

Embedded image creditEuropean Space Agency (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO DEED cropped)


This publication should not be considered in any way to constitute advice. It is for knowledge and educational purposes only. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Geostrategy or the views of its Advisory Council.

No. GPPR02 | ISBN: 978-1-914441-66-0