The first visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba to Poland reminded of the good old days, when assurances of strategic partnership and unconditional support were at the forefront of public rhetoric. That means support that will be provided by the Polish side automatically, without any preconditions.
The visit emphasised the change in the atmosphere in the relations between Kyiv and Warsaw – which is very significant, although currently the only real achievement in the relations between the two countries since the beginning of the presidency of V. Zelensky.
The historical dialogue that has clouded relations in recent years remains difficult, but at the level of foreign ministers, no high-profile controversy should be expected. The condition set by the Ukrainian side for further progress in the search and exhumation work in Ukraine, namely the restoration of the memorial plaque on Mount Monastyr, would have long ago been fulfilled by the Polish side, if it depended exclusively on the Polish Foreign Ministry. I dare say that the Polish Minister did not feel very comfortable with this, and he hardly had much desire to develop this topic given the limited maneuver of the Ministry in this matter.
In general, Dmytro Kuleba was met in a positive way in Poland. I hear mostly positive feedback from my Polish colleagues and partners. In particular, because in Poland they heard from the Ukrainian Minister what they wanted to hear for a long time. Some observers especially appreciated the message about the importance of regional cooperation, which fits very well into the idea of the Lublin Triangle proposed by the Polish side.
It is no wonder that Poland and Ukraine put a slightly different meaning into this concept. If in Poland this idea arose some time ago in the context of continuing the traditions of the Lublin Union, the anniversary of which was celebrated last year around Poland, for Ukraine, first of all, it is an opportunity to re-record the direction in which we intend to further strengthen our partnerships and alliance. Such is the European and Euro-Atlantic integration at the regional level. Or in this case, a kind of triangular European integration. If there are problems integrating with the EU and NATO, why not integrate with individual EU and NATO members?
The idea of the Lublin Triangle is correct, laudable and winning from different angles. In particular, from the point of view that in both Ukraine and Poland, even the opposition finds it difficult to criticise it, it is an almost unique phenomenon in our politically electrified societies. In the Ukrainian case, this idea fits very well with the progressive public’s favorite topic of the Baltic and Black Sea Union creation and the reincarnation of the Intermarium (not the Three Seas Initiative, but the Intermarium). In the Polish case, this is one of the clear signals of the importance and priority of the Jagiellonian concept of foreign policy – with an emphasis on the development of relations with neighbors in the East. Especially when the other concept – Piast’s (with an emphasis on relations with Germany) is perfectly implemented today except in the economic sense, given the volume of trade between Germany and Poland. And political relations after the presidential campaign in Poland entered an even greater phase of tension.
In other words, the popularity of such a concept (at least in Ukraine and Poland) is such that the idea of creating a triangle could well be voiced not by foreign ministers, but by the leaders of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania. Zelensky would only benefit electorally from such a step.
The viability of the triangle
Another issue is the viability of the triangle in both Poland and Ukraine. According to my information, the primary idea of creating this triangle belongs personally to Jacek Chaputowicz, who will no longer be the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the coming months. It is not known to what extent his successor will continue to support this idea. There is no doubt that Ukraine will remain one of the priorities of the new Polish Minister. Moreover, in Poland, the issue of Ukraine is increasingly transformed from a foreign policy issue into a domestic policy issue, given the number of Ukrainians working and living in Poland. But it is not known to what extent the format of the Lublin Triangle will remain such a priority.
As for Ukraine, there is no reason to doubt the importance of cooperation with Poland for Minister Kuleba, in particular, in the framework of regional initiatives and formats. There is also no reason to doubt the priority of this area for other individual members of the current government. However, there remain questions about understanding the importance of this area in general and similar formats, in particular, personally by the head of state.
That is why constant dynamics are needed at the highest level. The visit of the President of Poland to Ukraine in the near future could contribute to this. An important signal would be if President Duda made his first foreign visit to Ukraine.
An important signal from the Ukrainian president, instead, would be thorough preparation and participation in the upcoming Three Seas Initiative summit in autumn. Ukraine needs to officially become an observer in this initiative at this summit, as it would be a logical continuation of the Lublin Triangle. Another logical continuation could be the creation of a similar triangle at the Ukraine-Poland-Romania level. Poland and Romania are two neighbors of Ukraine that do not risk becoming pro-Russian in the medium and even long term, and, therefore, we can rely on their support – at least political – in deterring Russian aggression.
Alyona Hetmanchuk, Director of the New Europe Center, UP Blogs