The International Context of Economic
and Political Transitions
Bernt Schiller, M. Donald Hancock, and John Logue
The preceding chapters focus on domestic and comparative dimensions of postcommunist transitions in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. From the perspective of the late 1990s, the various country contributors persuasively argue that historical change is far from deterministic. As events proved, Marx's vision of an inevitable transition from capitalism to socialism was fundamentally flawed. The demonstrated failures of state socialism spelled its demise in the aftermath of Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to modernize communism at home and renounce the "Brezhnev doctrine" of military intervention to shore up Marxist-Leninist regimes in the "near abroad." Gorbachev's fateful initiatives helped trigger the resumption of regional processes of economic and political development that had been derailed in 1917, during the interwar period, and after 1945. The outcome has been a range of contrasting national strategies to transcend communism, based more on pragmatic innovation, self-interest, and ideologically-driven elite preferences than abstract theories of system change.
This chapter addresses two crucial international dimensions of ongoing transformation in Central and Eastern Europe: (1) support by the European Union and its member states in facilitating the incorporation of the postcommunist regimes into the broader fabric of West European economic, political, and social integration; and (2) security implications associated with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to include Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Both processes constitute significant contextual factors of continued marketization and democratic habituation in the region. European Union (EU) economic assistance, the prospective accession of at least five Central European countries to the EU (four of which are among the country studies included in this volume), and NATO enlargement point toward the potential emergence of an un-