Ukraine Expresses Interest in Joining the Three Seas Initiative

by Julia Benbenek

How would joining the 3SI benefit Ukraine?

The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) was launched in 2015 by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Katarovic and Polish President Andrzej Duda. The project aims to facilitate interconnectivity on energy, infrastructure, and digitalization projects in Eastern and Central Europe. It is a follow-on of the 2014 “North South Corridor” project led by the Atlantic Council General James Jones and Resident Senior Fellow Ian Brzezinski. After WWII, most infrastructure interconnections in Europe including gas pipelines and highways were built on the east-west axis; 3SI hopes to right this imbalance by supporting development along the north-south axis.

Twelve states are taking part in this initiative: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. During the 2017 3SI summit in Warsaw, President Trump also endorsed the project in hopes of strengthening key US allies economically and reducing their dependence on Kremlin energy imports. President Trump stated that 3SI will, “transform and rebuild the entire region and ensure that your infrastructure, like your commitment to freedom and rule of law, binds you to all of Europe and, indeed, to the West.”

At the 3SI summit in Bucharest in September of 2018, the participating countries agreed to forty-eight interconnection projects. One priority includes the development of energy infrastructure. There are plans to capitalize on new liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals in Świnoujście, Poland and Klaipeda, Lithuania as well as a potential future terminal in Krk, Croatia. Moreover, there will be support for the connection of regional energy networks to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline between Greece and Italy and the connection of New Romanian Black Sea gas reserves to the region. This is critical for lessening dependence on Kremlin gas imports. Moreover, there is a multitude of projects regarding transportation infrastructure such as north-to-south highway connections, railways, and the completion of the water corridor between the Danube, Oder, and Elbe rivers. Lastly, there are plans to enhance digital trade, research collaboration, and the Three Seas Digital Highway which will connect the region through communication, fiber optics, and eventually 5G technology.

Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelennsky expressed interest in joining the 3SI. During a joint press conference with President Duda in Warsaw on August 31, President Zelensky stated, “Our state is interested in becoming an active participant in regional projects and initiatives of the Polish state, for example, such as the 3SI.” Ukraine’s participation in the initiative would allow for the strengthening of its relations with western neighbors. Moreover, Ukraine has also expressed interest in joining the EU and NATO. During his visit to Brussels in June, President Zelensky reaffirmed Ukraine’s goal of integrating into both institutions. Although, Ukraine is not yet a member of either, it is already considering sending military contingents to join NATO missions in Iraq and the Mediterranean Sea.

Kremlin aggression over the past five years, following its illegal annexation of Crimea, has solidified domestic and international support for Ukrainian membership in the aforementioned organizations. Its likelihood to join the 3SI, EU, and NATO has augmented due to international support for ensuring Ukraine’s security by keeping it out of the Kremlin’s orbit. The growing solidarity in East and Central Europe supported by the United States will hopefully facilitate security in the region and the deterrence of further Kremlin aggression.

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