Creating stability in a time of uncertainty

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.

Transatlantic relations from Truman to Trump

This book is an interpretive history of transatlantic security from the negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1948–1949 to the turbulence created by President Trump, British departure from the European Union (Brexit) and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The book concludes with analyses of possible futures for the West and observes “the most disruptive force of all has been the American presidency of Donald J. Trump. Trump refused to accept virtually all the political and strategic assumptions on which transatlantic political, economic, financial, and security relations have been based for 70 years. And, given the transatlantic alliance’s heavy reliance on American leadership and involvement, Trump’s lack of commitment has placed huge question marks over the West’s future.”

Stanley R. Sloan

framework for defense of “the West.” The United Kingdom’s Lord Palmerston, a nineteenth-century British statesman, famously declared that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” Palmerston’s observation stood up well through the mid-twentieth century. However, the persistence of NATO—the leading component of the transatlantic bargain—seems to be challenging Palmerston’s assertion. Following George Washington’s warning in his farewell address that the United States should avoid permanent foreign alliances, particularly with

in Defense of the West (second edition)
Stanley R. Sloan

stability and defense against external threats. The treaty stated the basic European commitment to the transatlantic bargain-to-be. To make sure that the signal would be heard loudly and clearly where it needed to be heard the most—in the halls of the US Congress—President Truman, coincident with the Brussels Treaty signing, told a special joint session of Congress that he was “sure the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them protect themselves.” And so the first part of the

in Defense of the West (second edition)
Stanley R. Sloan

in withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military command structure; NATO’s adoption of the “Harmel Doctrine,” giving the alliance a dual defense and détente role in East–West relations; NATO’s approval of the military strategy of “flexible response” and the efforts to keep the strategy viable with deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe; British acceptance of an active role in continental Europe’s future through membership in the European Community (now European Union); Political maturation of the Federal Republic of Germany; Emergence of

in Defense of the West (second edition)
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new tasks, new traumas
Stanley R. Sloan

second development—what became known as the “great recession”—reinforced the already strong tendencies of the European allies to cut spending on defense while controlling government spending and protecting important social programs. President Obama came to office just as the “great recession” (from January 2007 to June 2009) had brought the Western economic system to its knees. The recession was a global one, based on the fact that annual real world gross domestic product per-capita actually declined in the single calendar year of 2009. 1 At the same time, war fatigue

in Defense of the West (second edition)
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turbulent transatlantic ties
Stanley R. Sloan

Shocks to the transatlantic system George W. Bush’s election as President of the United States in November 2000 raised many questions about how the transatlantic alliance might fare under his leadership. He brought with him a team that conveyed the impression of confident leadership on defense issues. His Secretary of State, retired general Colin Powell, had already served as national security advisor (to President Reagan) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton). Powell came to office well-respected on

in Defense of the West (second edition)
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Return to the West?
James W. Peterson and Jacek Lubecki

Emergence of new defense policy and structures The new Polish government’s initial foreign and security policy actions were cautious. The crumbling of the Soviet Union was a surprise to Polish anti-communist opposition, who, in the fall of 1989, found themselves in power unintentionally through their negotiated transition with the Communist Party. 1 While the Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved between February

in Defense policies of East-Central European countries after 1989
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Imperial legacies and post-imperial realities
James W. Peterson and Jacek Lubecki

country, regardless of its small size, to pursue a uniquely vigorous and well-funded defense policy. After all, a small size did not prevent Hungary from pursuing a policy of aggressive revisionism during the interwar period. The reality is in fact contrary to the above presumption – post-communist Hungary has emerged in many ways the precise opposite of Poland, which, as we will shortly learn, is an outlier among the

in Defense policies of East-Central European countries after 1989
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From convergence to divergence and back?
James W. Peterson and Jacek Lubecki

Historical patterns The themes of convergence and divergence resound and re-echo throughout both the earlier and more recent political history of the four East-Central European states. As such, they constitute important legacies to defense planning in the twenty-first century. Each country had a common historical experience during the imperial period prior to 1918. However, there were major divergences

in Defense policies of East-Central European countries after 1989