Transition Online‘s Martin Ehl writes about the possibility that the Visegrád Group–a post-Communist association of the four central European countries of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary–might not survive differences over Ukraine.
On the one side, there is Poland, which has asked the United States to station thousands of troops on its soil. On the other, there is Hungary, which has signed a very suspicious deal with Russia for a loan to build two new nuclear reactors that will tie Budapest to Moscow for the next three decades. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are somewhere in between, but both strongly reject an additional NATO (read U.S.) military presence in their countries.
Polish diplomats present at recent conferences such as Globsec, where the prime ministers of the four countries openly disagreed, or at the Wroclaw Global Forum, have started to ask whether the country should invest so much energy into regional cooperation that does not reflect their basic national interests.
Milan Nic, director of the Central European Policy Institute in Bratislava, said that considering the Czech and Slovak prime ministers’ rejection of an American military presence, Poles “have to wonder about our attitudes and if Poland would be better off giving more attention to cooperation with Romania, the Baltic countries, and some Scandinavian ones, which see the threat from the east likewise.”
The Polish propensity to push their partners into a corner and entertain even the worst-case scenarios is viewed in Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest as hysteria, according to Nic. “The level of our strategic dialogue and understanding was not prepared for such a grave crisis as the Ukrainian one,” Nic said.
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Mateusz Gniazdowski, director of the Central European department at the Polish governmental think tank, the Center for Eastern Studies has noted, “Above all, in Poland the opinion prevails quite often that countries with a common heritage and who are neighbors on a map have common interests.” While EU members obviously have varied histories, one would have thought their current priorities in regard to Russia would align more frequently than they do.