Convergence with Stalinist expections characterized the political experiences of all four states in the immediate period after the post-Second World War transition to communist political patterns. However, divergence from Moscow-led communist directives took place in Poland in 1956 and 1980, in Hungary in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Post-Stalinism in the four East-Central European countries took the form of both unrest under the directives from Moscow and the efforts of top political leaders to conform with the policy positions emanating from the East. Warsaw Pact invasions stifled innovation in all three communist era states but raised expectations in the underground for change in a future and better day. Their communist era resistances to control by Moscow were futile in the short term but important in the long-run in laying a foundation for the return to self-autonomy after 1989.
In the period after the fall of communism, the Czech Republic after 1993 fastened on membership in NATO as a tool for enhancing security in the new more pluralistic period. They enacted military reforms that eventually led to a fully voluntary military force in the early twenty-first century. Defense budgets centered on achievement of the NATO goals of 2% of GDP spent on defense, and they achieved that by the time of alliance membership in 1999 but tailed off into lower amounts in the following years. NATO-related deployments of their military forces were central in terms of the dispatch of Czech troops to Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Eventually European Union obligations determined their strategies in Bosnia after the transiton from NATO to EU control in December 2004.
Forces of liberal convergence drove Hungary to dismantle the communist-era military establishment, subject it to democratic-civilian control, and to join NATO. After 1999 NATO membership, and 2004 EU membership, in turn, led the country’s defense policies adjustment to requirements of liberal alliance politics, including multilateral deployments abroad in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Hungarian defense doctrines, the size of the country’s military structure and role followed the liberal alliances paradigm. However, the persistent theme throughout all these adjustments was Hungary’s neglect of military spending and lack of emphasis on military dimensions of security. The chapter argues that this persistent theme is a result of peculiar anti-militaristic strategic culture resulting from collective traumas of the twentieth century. The Hungarian recent turn towards nationalistic populism changed little in both façade orientation of Hungarian defense policies around liberal alliance policies and a neglect of defense policies as the reality behind the façade.
Poland’s strategic choice to adopt liberal democratic institutions both externally and internally defined the country’s defense policies in the post-communist period. This chapter describes the country’s efforts to dismantle the communist-era defense establishment and adjust its defense policies to the task of joining NATO, which was successfully accomplished by 1999. Between 1999 and 2014, following the imperatives of liberal alliance politics and of its unique strategic culture Poland played the role of “loyal” member of NATO and EU and of “security provider,” especially on multilateral overseas missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland’s adjustment of its defense policies, military size, structure, and doctrine to post-9/11 imperatives of the “war on terror” led to the relative neglect of its conventional and territorial defense capacities. After 2013–14 Ukrainian Crisis, Poland accelerated its conventional military build-up, backed by a robust pattern of military spending which has marked the country as an outlier among Visegrád countries.
Slovakia had been on the periphery of the region due to its historic role in the Hungarian Empire prior to the 1918 formation of the Czechoslovak state. However, the state moved into a more Western orbit after the First World War and then asserted its own national autonomy after achieveing independence from the Czechoslovak state in 1993. Debates about the size of its armed forces were crucial in light of its aspirations for membership in NATO, a hope that came to fruition in 2004. Their troops did play a role in the alliance involvements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia just before and after their entry into the Western military alliance. In spite of their small size, their perceptions of themselves as a small nation or “tiger”on the move made them a significant player in regional defense strategies.
Overall, the Visegrád Four states were central players in the development of Central European defense policies after the 1989 anti-communist revolutions. Ideological change from conformity to communist patterns, to espousal of democratic values was the underlying thrust of their political and policy evolution, and this had a profound impact on their ensuing defense policies. Activities that centered on defense issues characterize their involved role in both NATO and EU deployments, and these emphasized the draw of convergence. However, divergence themes emerged as well, with the rise of powerful nationalistic political forces in each state. After 2015, the flow of refugees from troubled Middle Eastern states intensified the conflict within each of the four states, between those political forces that favored openness and those that preferred closure.
Membership anniversaries and theoretical security models
James W. Peterson and Jacek Lubecki
The chapter provides theoretical frameworks for, and a general overview of, the book. First, alliance theory framework is examined, providing a theoretical perspective on how institutional factors can either diminish or increase distances between member states of an alliance. Second, a cluster of theories encompassed by “divergence and convergence” framework is highlighted. Based on realist, liberal, and constructivist theories, these theories examine non-institutional factors that explain variables leading to divergence and divergence of Eastern European states’ defense policies. Finally, we look at domestic and transnational factors that explain defense policy formation of states under consideration. The chapter ends with an overview of the countries encompassed in the book based on geography and factors of security and insecurity that the respective states feel.
Defense policies of secure East-Central European countries are examined in this chapter. On balance, and with a partial exception of relatively poor Slovakia, the countries in question successfully transition to stable capitalist and democratic polities, and are relatively stable and secure from geopolitical threats. The countries defense and security policies benefited from relatively early integration into NATO and EU, and the policies have been characterized by convergence and shirking of institutional and policy distances. The countries thus have largely faithfully followed NATO- and EU-led policies and security frameworks. However, precisely because of the countries’ early success with integration and the countries’ relative safety, they also experienced diminished defense budgets and neglected their territorial defenses. The countries’ reaction to the Crimean crisis has been ambiguous, as concerns about Russia are balanced by growing anti-liberal and Russophilic trends in all of the countries. However, a recent trend toward partial remilitarization is also visible. In all cases pro-European rather than pro-US tendency of defense procurement efforts is pronounced.
The chapter examines three states which face perceived security challenges from Russia: Poland, Romania, and Moldova. While geopolitical factors mostly explain these challenges, cultural and other factors are also important. Poland has to confront a legacy of 500 years of complex security relationship with Russia, mostly characterized by mutual hostility and conflict. Romania is a non-Slavic state among the Slavic sea, but has to deal with legacies of conflict with Russia/Soviet Union over Bessarabia (Moldova). Significantly, between 1922 and 1939 Poland and Romania were joined by an anti-Soviet military alliance, and we are seeing a return to a similar alignment today. Significantly, both countries have been pursuing a relatively well-funded and vigorous defense policies aimed at reinforcing the alliance with NATO and with the United States. The recent Crimean crisis only reinforced these policies, leading to Poland’s and Romania’s strenuous efforts at military buildup. Poland stands out in NATO as the country with the highest relative defense spending besides the United States and Greece. Both Poland and Romanian are characterized by a strong Atlanticist and pro-US direction of their defense policies.
Moving beyond the 15– 20–year anniversaries to stable policies in a time of constant political turmoil
James W. Peterson and Jacek Lubecki
The chapter concludes the book by examining the meaning of anniversaries in creating mythical “places of memories” for peoples and institution. The meaning of NATO and EU admission anniversaries for the newly admitted Eastern European member states is scrutinized. While facing challenges in Eastern Europe, NATO and the EU have been largely successful in providing security and stability in the region. The current crises facing the countries and institutions in the region are likely to strengthen rather than weaken the institutional frameworks in question.