Geopolitics of Central and Eastern Europe since 1989

Article excerpt

Over the past twenty years, the Czech Republic has held little geopolitical significance. The same is not true, however, for Central and Eastern Europe (C&EE) in general, which has maintained its geopolitically significant role. Any study of modern Czech geopolitics should therefore be contextualized within the C&EE context.

The geopolitics of C&EE since 1989 is multi-layered and complicated. With the fall of the Soviet Empire, the region faced two options: it could either become part of the (political) West, or it could neutralize into a bridge between the East and West. The region could westernize like Norway, (West) Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, or it could maintain a state of neutrality like Finland and Austria.

Both options were viable possibilities. At that time, westernization--as embodied in C&EE's membership in NATO and the EU--was not inevitable. Sound statesmanship has since rendered our affiliation with the West into a success.

So. When the path towards westernization materialized, the foremost consideration became specifically and emphatically defining the region's geopolitical stance: we are a part of the West; we are not neutral; we are not "up for Russian grabs." Consequently and despite the concerted efforts of some interested parties, the "Finlandisation" or "Austrification" of C&EE did not transpire.

Furthermore, since the former Soviet states generally attribute the collapse of Soviet communism to the USA, rather than to Western Europe, and since the region's eastern border physically borders neo-authoritarian Russia, it retains some fear of Russian influence. We consequently rely far more heavily on the availability or even necessity of the Euro-American alliance, than on Western Europe alone.

In another words, Central and Eastern European states are more likely to emphasize Russia's threat to the West than their Western brethren. It is for this reason that the region emphasizes the need for a trans-Atlantic alliance between Europe and America. And as a consequence, the region also serves politically and paradoxically (given its geographical position) as a link between Western Europe and the United States.

Of late, however, this role has diminished due to the "Western Europeanisation" of Central and Eastern Europe whose former exceptionalism has weakened with time. …