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Together with the East. Is it possible?

10.12.2016 | By Łukasz Kołtuniak

The Russian threat was one of the most important reason why Poland has proposed the idea of Intermarium the bloc of Central European States. The conflict in Ukraine forced European governments to revalue the concept of European security. But the Ukraine hybrid war showed that in the V 4 s well an in the whole region there is no consesus in the matter of Eastern policy. In my short article I would like to analyse the factors which determined the policy of the states in our region towards the Eastern conflict so as to find a common or potentially common ground in this policy. I will analyse the policy of the states in traditional V4 and the states of extended V4 as Serbia, Baltic States and Romania.

Poland

Poland is the country traditionally perceived as ‘anti-Russian’ and ‘pro-Ukrainian’. The Polish policy after 1989 was based on the primacy of so called ULB conception. According to that idea Poland has crucial interest in the preservation of the independence of states between Poland and Russia. Although relations with Russia are important they should not be building by sacrifice the neighbours whose independence can save us against potentially or as in 2014 contenmporary Russian expansionism. Although now we observe tensions in Polish-Ukrainian relations concerning rather symbolic, in this case historical issue, it does not seem that Poland could reject a certain level of support for Ukraine. During the government of “Law and Justice’ Party the relation between Poland and Russia probably will be still not satisfactory, first of all due to the conflict of vital interests and also due to lack of confidence from the attitude of current government to the Russian treatment of Smolensk crash from 2010. In Polish society one may observe the beginning of the political orientation which is more willing to achieve reconciliation with Russia than to give support to Ukraine. However, in the perspective of next ten years it seems to be more probably that Poland despite historical tensions will be cooperate with Ukraine. The common interest is now so visible that cooperation of these two nations is very probable.

Czech Republic

In the Czech politics we can observe two tendencies. One is oriented on the cooperation with the Western ally. This point of view is represented by centre-right opposition and to a certain degree by ruling social democracy. However, many things seem to suggest that in the next elections both presidentially and parliamentary could be won by the supporters of the stronger pivot to Russia i.e. Andrej Babis and Milos Zeman. The Eastern policy will be the subject or even the hot topic of the Czech policy and the future of this policy is unpredictable. But the fact of deep economic ties between both countries rather suggest the more Russian-oriented Czech policy.

Slovakia

Slovakia tries to balance between Russia and Ukraine. The traditional good relations with Russia are paralleled by the support to the Ukrainian efforts to make a political transition. No matter who will be in power, Slovakia will be in balance in the Eastern conflict but probably it will be deeper consider and more long-term oriented balance than in the case of the Czech Republic.

Hungary

Viktor Orban is perceived as the symbol of Visegrad pivot to Russia. He is in favour of more conservative and more pragmatic trends in global policy and on many occasions he has verbally supported Putin. However, we should forget that Hungary just as Slovakia has done even more things to support to Ukraine. Hungarian transitional support is praised by Ukraine governments. So we see a balance rather than strictly pro-Russian orientation. For Orban, the pro-Russia statements are rather an instrument of building his own political conception.e. the so called illiberal democracy and on the other hand it is instrument of achieving undirectly economical results as in the most famous case concerning the Russian investment in Paks.

Romania

Romania is the country similar to Poland in its awareness of Russian danger. However, since the Crimea conflict Romania has also explored the chance with the support for Ukraine. Now Romania policy is even more pro-Ukraine orientated than Polish. We can foresee the deeper partnership between Poland and Romania due to common point of view of the both countries in almost each key geopolitical issue

Serbia

Serbia is perceived as the traditional Russian ally in region. However just as in the case of Hungary, Serbia does not want to sharpen the relation with Ukraine. In the historical perspective in Serbia exist the traditional idea of the Slavic unity and the conflict on Ukraine is a danger for realisation of this concept.

Baltic states

Baltic states are the countries which are convinced that they can be the next Putin victim. For that reason they will be try avoid any pivot in European and firstly US policy that can weaken traditional support for their independence.

Russia approach to Visegrad

It is rather a little probable that Russia perceive Visegrad as the area of potential expansion. However we must remember that in Moscow exist many repercussions of former idea of the „common European house”. The surprisingly weak reaction of the region to the invasion in Ukraine and the good relation with the even bigger part of the states in region are perceive on Kremlin as the chance to building the sphere of relatively Russian-friendly or Russian neutrally states in Central Europe. In such idea Poland and Romania can be in danger due to lack of support from more and more unstable Western countries and from the other hand they will be present in region as Russophobs which are the obstacle in the process of keeping good economic relation with Moscow.

Ukrainian approach to region

Ukraine firstly perceive our region as the model of efficient transition. For that reason transitional support is so praised in Kyiv. From the other hand it is more than ovbious that Ukraine see in Poland the key states for their indenpendence but in other sense that it is expected by some politics in Warsaw. Ukraine see in Poland the state which will be the main quarder of Ukraine and they verbally support will be quarantion that Europe not resigned from the support for Ukraine. Some Polish politcs expect that Poland will be play the role of the factically main states for Ukraine security but now Kyiv last but not least realistically prefer support by states with the bigger potential as Germany or US.

Summary

Does exist the common ground of effcient Visegrad East policy. The analysis showing that in almost all countries it is visible support for the Ukrainian reform. This common agenda connected Intermarum states. From the other hand the point of view on Russian threat is the subject of conflict in for example Czech Republic or in Hungary. So as to keep realtive unity in Intermarum East policy the common agenda in this policy should include the support for Ukrainian territorial integrity and for the process of reform. When we analyse the discourse even politics perceive as most Pro-Russian as Milos Zeman and Wiktor Zeman does not negate the necessity of these postulates. The details of the East policy will be divide Intermarium countries even due to different historical experience. The simple geopolitical analysis shows that Intermarium countries are divided between country indirectly in danger of potentially Russian expansionism as Poland, Baltic states and Romania and on the other hand country such as Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia which rather see the chance on diversification its economy due to Russian investition, but this common agenda can help preserve the chance of realise the attempt of building Middle Europe cooperation.

Łukasz Kołtuniak is a PhD candidate at the Department of Law at the Jagiellonian University. His research interests focus on the Visegrad Group and cooperation in Central Europe.

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