When they emerged from totalitarianism the states of the former Soviet bloc faced the task of redefining their political systems, their economies, and their individual places in the international community.
Redefinition in the international sense was easy. The binding institutions of the old Soviet system collapsed under the impact of the political changes in eastern Europe. At a meeting in Paris in November 1990 leaders of NATO and the WTO signed a treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe and announced the inauguration of a ‘new era of democracy, peace and unity in Europe’. In February 1991 in Budapest the member states agreed to liquidate the Warsaw pact with effect from 31 March 1991. In June 1991 Comecon, which had been atrophying since early 1990, was formally disbanded. Thus, even before the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist, the institutional links which bound east European states to it had disappeared.
Immediately after the collapse of communism it was widely believed that eastern Europe would now be left free to determine its own future without external interference. Tragically that was not to be the case in Bosnia. Elsewhere a new form of influence was rapidly established. Governments needed no convincing that they had to adopt political pluralism and the market economy; but to create the latter they needed financial help. The international financial institutions (IFIs) were the only available source of such help. They were happy to extend loans or in some cases to make donations, but whether as a loan or a gift the money came with a price tag. The IFIs insisted on rigid budgetary control, privatisation, and the ending of state subsidies to loss-making enterprises.
The conditions the IFIs laid down were in general accepted. The new governments of eastern Europe were committed to the market economy and all of them expressed a wish to draw near to, or eventually become, a member of the European Union (EU). They were saying in effect that they did not wish to remain east European. Full membership of the EU would depend on rigid economic judgements but entry into the political institutions of western Europe was less difficult and most former totalitarian states were soon admitted to organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In strategic terms most east European states