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- Author: Jacek Lubecki x
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The chapter examines the communist period of Eastern European states’ political history, with a special focus on late communism. Institutional factors of divergence and convergence are scrutinized with an emphasis on paradoxes of communism as an ideology leading to both unity and conflict. The countries in the region are divided into members of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), subjugated by the Soviet Union, and “independent” communist countries, Yugoslavia and Albania. Among WTO members distinction is made between northern tier countries of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and the Balkan countries of Bulgaria and Romania. While the Soviet position in the north was basically stable, even though nationalist uprisings had to be put down in all member states in WTO, the Soviets were weak in the Balkans, where only one country, Bulgaria, was a faithful Soviet ally. Finally, different factors and histories of extrication from communism are examined, emphasizing factors leading to different outcomes in different countries. The erosion of the Soviet position in the northern tier countries was decisive in the destruction of the Soviet empire and WTO.
The chapter briefly examines various forms of extrication from communism leading to different forms of post-communist governments. While nationalism underlined all revolutions that overthrew communism in Eastern Europe, in some cases the revolutions were peaceful and led to liberal political and social order, while in others the revolutions were violent or led to further violence mostly motivated by nationalism. The prevalence of elite-led nationalistic goals led to “wars of Yugoslavian succession” which wrecked the former Yugoslavia for a decade between 1991 and 2001. In the rest of the region non-violent revolution mostly prevailed, and the emerging liberal states, after a brief period of hesitation, sought integration into Western security institutions, chiefly NATO and EU. Different domestic policy formation factors in countries of the region explain the different pace and strength of integration drives in the countries of the region. These factors are conceptualized as a dialectic between forces of conservatism rooted in nationalism or communism, and forces of liberalism, seeking integration with the West.
This book blends analysis of Eastern European security needs, foreign threats, domestic political events, and public opinion, in theoretical ways to understand how they lead to future defense postures and commitments for each country in the region. How has NATO and EU membership improved their overall regional defense protection, and what ingredients are still missing for them on an individual state basis? Separate chapters treat clusters of states that make up the various regions of Eastern Europe. For example, the three threatened Baltic states in the north will receive careful analysis. Second, the complex array of states in the Balkan area of Southeastern Europe merit examination, for their security conditions have been quite varied and diverse. For some, NATO and EU membership has become a reality, and for others that possibility does not yet exist. Third, three of the four geographically central states were the ones that first gained full membership in NATO at the earliest possible moment in 1999. At present, Poland in the north has perceived clear threats from Russia since 2014, while the three other East-Central European states possess greater sense of security.
East-Central European countries, the Visegrád Four to include the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, have developed a divergence of approaches to key issues of national defense. Measures of defense capability include size of defense budgets, numbers of persons in the armed forces, and willingness to engage in foreign deployments led by NATO and the EU that act as integrating forces within the region. The communist experiences of earlier decades have acted as legacies that have shaped countries’ post-1989 approaches to national and regional defense. However, the evolution of liberal-democratic patterns and systems have played a meaningful role as well. In spite of those convergence experiences and patterns, divergence among them has characterized their interactions as well. Poland has been more willing to take on regional defense obligations, while the other three have been more reluctant. Since the 2014 Ukrainian Crisis, a strident and divisive nationalism has shaken each of them and modified their approaches to defense issues.
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.
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.
Chapter 1 sets up conceptual and theoretical frameworks for understanding divergence and convergence in Czech, Slovak, Polish, and Hungarian (“Visegrád Four” countries) defense policies in the post-communist era. The chapter’s central argument is that post-communist convergence between Visegrád Four defense policies is best understood as a result of the universal adoption of liberal democratic political systems and ideologies by the countries in question. However, the chapter argues, post-communist divergence in the respective countries’ defense policies, made especially visible by their post-2014 differential reactions to the Russo-Ukrainian Crisis and its fallout cannot be understood within the framework of liberalism as both a political system and a theory of international relations. Different schools and concepts of realism and constructivism are therefore evoked as necessary for illuminating the noted divergence between Poland, which responded robustly and in militaristic fashion to the perception of Russian threat, and the rest of the Visegrád countries, with their lukewarm responses. Within realism, the chapter draws attention to Poland’s distinctive geopolitical position. Within constructivism, the chapter evokes the notions of “role theory” and “strategic cultures” as key for understanding the countries’ diverging polices.
Chapter 2 examines pre-communist histories of Visegrád countries in search of historical sources of their strategic cultures. Central to the chapter’s inquiry is the fact that all four countries in the modern/early modern age were conquered and peripheralized by larger imperial entities. Hungary and Czech lands (Bohemia) were subjected to Habsburg rule; Poland was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and the Habsburg empire; and Slovak lands were doubly peripheralized within the framework of the Hungarian Kingdom and as a part of the Habsburg empire. However, each of the entities in question had a different past prior to imperial subjugations, each experienced the subjugation differently, and each emerged in 1918 as sovereign entities with distinctive memories of the past and under different structural conditions. Still, all of the countries in question succumbed to Nazi and Soviet imperialism during the Second World War, albeit the subjugation came in different forms and under different circumstances.