Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

The Greatest Common Divisor: Russia's Role in Visegrad Foreign Policies1

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

The Greatest Common Divisor: Russia's Role in Visegrad Foreign Policies1

Article excerpt

This article is intended to be an overview of the position of Russia in the foreign policies of the four Visegrad countries, thus of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The background motivation behind preparing this analysis was on the one hand to provide a general overview of an important direction of Visegrad external relations and to compare the national interests related to Russia. On the other hand, the study also intends to explore the common interests and the differences in the individual Russia policies of the Visegrad countries, and thus to assess the coherence of Visegrad cooperation towards Russia in general. The article focuses on the current state of affairs, thus the historical context of Visegrad-Russia relations will be touched only briefly.

Hence, the main research questions to answer are the following. First, what are the common elements of the Visegrad's national foreign policies towards Russia? In other words, by turning to the vocabulary of mathematics, what are the common denominators in the four Visegrad countries' Russia policies?

The second research question is closely related to the first one: what are the points of disagreement on Russia-what are the divisors? Of course, one needs to handle separately those issues where opinions in the Visegrad simply differ from those cases where the countries are rivalling each other, e.g., where a zero sum game is going on.

The last question to answer is that when taking into account the common interests of the Visegrad countries in Russia, to what extent are the activities of the International Visegrad Fund (IVF) as an organisation in accordance with these objectives? The International Visegrad Fund is the only institutional emanation of the Visegrad cooperation,2 thus its activities deserve a closer look, and hence the question to be answered is does the IVF represent the shared interests of the Visegrad countries towards Russia? Is the IVF able to serve as an effective instrument in fostering the Visegrad interests related to Russia?

Regarding the sources, the analysis strongly builds on primary sources, particularly on official government documents, used in order to define the individual national foreign policy interests. Academicians analysing the subject of Russia are in a surprisingly good position regarding the availability of primary sources: all four Visegrad countries have their foreign policy strategies and national security strategies accessible in English, and several interviews and declarations by various officials are also available. The same is true for study of the relevant activities of the International Visegrad Fund.3

Secondary sources for the subject are also available in remarkable quantities, both from Visegrad authors and from outside the region. Thus, plenty of analyses is connected, of course, to the obvious importance of Russia for the whole region. In all four Visegrad countries several studies and analytical papers have been prepared about various aspects of the relationship with Russia.

Poland has by far the largest and most diverse academic capabilities available for conducting Russia-related research. One may mention, among many others, the works of Marek Menkiszak,4 Adam Eberhardt,5 Przemys3aw urawski vel Grajewski6 and Agata £oskot-Strachota.7 From the Czech Republic, the works of Petr Kratochvíl8 deserve particular attention in addition to the experts dealing specifically with energy security. From Slovakia, among many others, both Alexander Duleba9 and Vladimír Benè10 regularly prepare articles and studies related to Russia. The Hungarian expert community also has many well-known, competent analysts dealing with Russia. One may mention, for example the energy security expert András Deák,11 active diplomat Ernõ Keskeny,12 and the economist Zsuzsa Ludvig.13

Regarding the knowledge on the Visegrad region in general from the Russian side, one definitely needs to mention the recently published Russian language book by Lyubov Shishelina from the Institute of Europe of the Russia Academy of Sciences titled Vishegradskaya Evropa: otkuda i kuda? …

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