Rediscovery of Eastern Europe (I)

The Ukrainian crisis seems to be a “game changer” for the East of the European continent. A lightning striking out of nowhere. The narration existing until this crisis was predicting for this continental region a peaceful future, in terms of security, the enlargement of NATO and the EU placing the societies of this region already in a “post-modern world.” The effects of this narration were visible not only in the focusing of these states on internal reforms (economic development, consolidated rule of law, assimilation of European values etc.), but also in regard to the dramatic decrease of military spending, the negligence that surrounded the military instrument. Even though EU seemed active in the region (see the project of the ‘Eastern Partnership’) the regular narration relied on sound data of European interdependence in a large sense – Europe’s dependence from the Russian gas, the flourishing commerce between Russia and the West of the continent (Germany, first of all, but also France, England or The Netherlands) etc. – which destined the region to a different future than the historic role of buffer between Russia and the West.

In the global geopolitical perspective, the data were equally significant: the USA-Russia reset, primed in 2009, START-3 as a groundwork of predictability signed in 2010 – although with some reservation from Russia in relation to the American anti-missile shield in the region – the perception of a trend of American withdrawal from Europe as a consequence of the Asian pivot, the Middle East in the inertia of the Arab Spring. Only China seemed to still grant – among the large systemic players – a particular importance to this region of the European continent, showing its availability to make massive investments here and organising each year, in a state of the region, a summit of the premiers of the governments (the last being held at Bucharest in November 2013).
Like a lightning striking out of nowhere, the Ukrainian crisis and the annexation of Crimea by Russia switched the spotlights onto this region and firmly draw another narration of medium- and long-term evolution of Eastern Europe as a geopolitical array. It is a narration specific to a European entity at the Russian border, with the dual role of keeping in check possible revanchist moves and the imperial reconstruction of Russia, and anchoring the profoundly European East to Europe (Ukraine, Belarus, Caucasus, even Russia). This narration coagulates at lightning speed and deserves an in-depth analysis, because it deciphers global systemic trends and helps us understand the developments of events in this region and beyond, which involve all the major actors of the system.
First, there is the limiting/discouraging a new move of aggressive annexation by Russia. The reputed electronic magazine “Stratfor” recently posted an analysis that takes into consideration a new enactment of the doctrine of ‘containment,’ signed by George Friedman. Starting from the idea that the USA is now in a situation of confrontation with Russia, after the annexation of Crimea, and the next aggressive moves from Russia can take place on the terrestrial arch cartographically drawn from Estonia to Azerbaijan, which surrounds the Black Sea, Friedman writes that USA must organise a new alliance that will secure the stopping/discouraging of any Russian aggressive mood: “As I observed, the Baltics, Moldova and the Caucasus are areas where the Russians could seek to compensate for their defeat. Because of this, and also because of their intrinsic importance, Poland, Romania and Azerbaijan must be the posts around which this alliance is built.” Such an alliance should supplement NATO, overcoming some inconveniences of this alliance. So it should not be NATO, but a new military alliance. Especially as, in the new geopolitical context, configuring a political-military block in Eastern Europe also has to administer various matters of security such as energy shipments from East to West. Friedman concludes by saying: “These countries, diverse as they are, share a desire not to be dominated by the Russians. That commonality is a basis for forging them into a functional military alliance. This is not an offensive force but a force designed to deter Russian expansion. All of these countries need modern military equipment, particularly air defence, anti-tank and mobile infantry. In each case, the willingness of the United States to supply these weapons, for cash or credit as the situation requires, will strengthen pro-U.S. political forces in each country and create a wall behind which Western investment can take place. And it is an organization that others can join, which unlike NATO does not allow each member the right to veto“.

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