Central and Eastern Europe is undergoing active regional integration processes, both to strengthen ties between the countries and to reduce their dependence on the external players. And, importantly, the initiatives are taken not only by the countries that have claimed regional leadership in recent decades, but also by Ukraine, which seems to have decided to try itself in the role of leader in this part of the continent.
One of clear examples is the establishment of the so-called “Lublin Triangle” by the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, which took place in Lublin in the summer. This is a trilateral format based on the traditions and ties of the three countries, which are deeply rooted in the history. In the adopted declaration, the diplomats noted the common threats both in the field of security and in other areas, in particular in the field of combating pandemics.
The parties emphasized that this platform is an important mechanism for strengthening the Central Europe and promoting Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. According to Dmytro Kuleba, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, “the Lublin Triangle has the potential to become an important format for regional cooperation”.
According to the above-mentioned words of the Minister Kuleba, it follows that “Lublin” since its inception was not intended to be limited only to three countries.
As an example, immediately after the establishment of the “Lublin Triangle”, the first step was made by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister who invited his Belarusian counterpart Volodymyr Makei to the meeting of ministers of the trilateral platform.
However, the events in Belarus, namely the social unrest due to the falsification of the results of the presidential election, did not allow the plans to be translated into action. Moreover, the foreign ministers of the Lublin Triangle countries called on the Belarusian authorities not to use force against their own citizens and to release the detained protesters, thus placing the “triangle” in opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
It is worth noting that Belarus could potentially be an important element of the newly created regional format. After all, in geographical context this country would unite all the current member-states of the format, with the possibility of expanding the borders in the north-eastern direction, striking a serious blow against Russia’s regional ambitions.
Therefore, the idea of involving Minsk seems quite logical. Moreover, according to Jan Hofmokl, the Director at Eastern Division of Polish MFA, at the negotiation stage Belarus was to be one of the founding states of the platform, so the latter was planned to be in a “four-fold” format. However, this did not happen.
However, new steps towards enlargement were made. Another example is the suggestion of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denis Shmygal to the President of Poland Andrzej Duda, when the latter was paying official visit to Ukraine, to expand the format of the Lublin Triangle platform.
However, in October it was not yet known which states were considered as potential participants. The curtain has been raised just recently.
Thus, on December 17, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov and the Head of the National Security Bureau of Poland Pawel Soloch discussed the issue of Romania’s involvement into the “triangle”.
The information is rather interesting. After all, Romania is as important country as, for example, Poland. For the following reasons.
It is common knowledge that the Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the Lublin Triangle contains a provision on supporting Ukraine’s aspirations for membership in Western alliances. Given the fact that Romania is a member of both the European Union and NATO, and, by the way, the Romanian section of the border is the longest between the EU/NATO and Ukraine, deepening relations with Bucharest is the key task for Kyiv.
It is also important to realize the security situation in the Black Sea, as Danilov and Solokh noted during their joint meeting. NATO plays a pivotal role here too. After all, the Alliance has a significant presence in the Black Sea waters, including exercises involving the allied ships and the deployment of a multinational training brigade led by Romania.
In addition, in early 2021 a NATO summit will be held in Brussels, where they are going to widely cover the security issues in the Black Sea. And adding the Sofia Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which is welcomed to cooperate with in the Joint Declaration, the Black Sea issues stand a good chance to become the dominant subject on the agenda in the nearest future. And Romania could advocate the Black Sea security interests of the region.
However, the only thing is that the National Security Strategy of Ukraine (NSC), approved on September 14, i.e. one and a half months after the establishment of the “triangle”, does not mention that Romania is a strategic partner of our country. Unlike Poland and Lithuania, which are the members of the trilateral format.
Based on the above, we can make two conclusions: either at the time of the NSC adoption, Romania was not yet considered a potential participant of the “Lublin Triangle”, or Bucharest’s involvement into the initiative may take place in the medium or even long term. And what is happening now is a kind of probing the “Romanian soil”.
However, in addition to Belarus and Romania, other countries of the region are also expected to be involved. Though, things are not that simple. For example, Ukraine has rather tense relations with Hungary. And Moldova has a difficult domestic political situation. Therefore, currently there is little hope that Budapest and Chisinau will be involved.
However, it is obvious that a regional project like the Lublin Triangle has had a vision for expansion since its inception. And it is not bad that Kyiv is the initiator of both, the establishment of the initiative, and the involvement of new participants in it. In this regard, it could be concluded that Ukraine seeks to expand its role in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and, consequently, to strengthen its positions on the world stage.