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Category: Articles and Commentary

Who owns the state? Latvian anti-establishment party aims for power

Through a rhetoric of radical change, issue-oriented politics and a centre-right platform, KPV LV has become one of the main forces in Latvia’s new parliament.

November 13, 2018 - Stefano Arroque

Is the death of a Kherson local official the Gongadze case all over again?

Kateryna Handziuk's murder brings back memories of another politically motivated crime in Ukraine's newer history. President Poroshenko needs to try to avoid the same mistakes Kuchma made almost two decades ago.

November 9, 2018 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

Ukrainian civil society under attack

The conditions for the Ukrainian civil society are becoming increasingly difficult ahead of a highly contested presidential election in a few months time.

November 8, 2018 - Alexandra Wishart

Lavrov threatens NATO over Estonian missile accident

Beyond the large-scale geopolitical game, a Spanish fighter jet comes close to triggering an event with unforeseeable consequences for NATO and Russia.

November 6, 2018 - Joseph Hammond

More than independence. Poland and 1918

After the First World War Poland regained its independence. At the same time, it failed to recreate its former state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and reconstruct a map of western Eurasia.

In 1918 a newly independent Poland appeared on Europe’s stage with a complex and ambitious vision to rebuild the western parts of the former Russian Empire. The new opportunities that Poland saw were a result of Germany and Russia’s defeat in the First World War. Poland, seeing a geopolitical vacuum in the East, came up with three visions.

November 5, 2018 - Adam Balcer

1918 – A geopolitical catastrophe for Ukraine

There is merit in perusing counterfactual history – which is not about what happened, but what could have happened. It allows us to reconsider simple questions and search for more precise answers. Why the Ukrainian revolution lost in 1918 is one such question.

When we recall 1918, within the context of Polish-Ukrainian relations, the first thing that springs to mind is the Polish-Ukrainian war for Lviv and Galicia. And this is only natural. This war has deeply influenced relations between the two societies for the decades that followed. As Christoph Mick described it in Lemberg, Lwów, L'viv, 1914-1947: Violence and Ethnicity in a Contested City, interactions between Poles, Ukrainians and Jews – until the horrors of the Second World War – developed under the influence of the memory of November 1918. Poles celebrated the victory and Ukrainians prepared for revenge, while Jews contemplated memories of the pogrom staged by the Polish army when it marched into Lviv and hence feared Polish antisemitism more than Ukrainian antisemitism.

November 5, 2018 - Yaroslav Hrytsak

Selective memory in the South Caucasus

This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the short independence in the South Caucasus. Politicians in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have used this opportunity to remind about the history of statehood and present their own vision of those times and the current situation. Sadly, what is presented today is largely distant from the visions for these countries 100 years ago.

It was a sad morning in Batumi. Noe Zhordania – the founding father of an independent Georgia in 1918 – was standing on the deck of a ship waiting for his departure. The beautiful view of the mountains towering over the Black Sea coast was probably the last one he saw before leaving his homeland forever. At that moment he was unaware, but the prospects of his return were not too optimistic.

November 5, 2018 - Jan Brodowski

Old Moldova in new Europe

Since 2009, Moldova’s ruling elite have primarily based their political narratives on pro-European integration. Events that have unfolded in 2018, however, have made the continuation of this course nearly impossible.

In September 2018 Vladimir Plahotniuc, the leader of Moldova’s ruling Democratic Party and the most powerful oligarch in the country, announced that his party was set to change political course. Up until then, it had been the most important pro-European political force in Moldova. However, while preparing for the 2019 February parliamentary elections, it became a “pro-Moldovan” party. To many commentators this announcement was interpreted as a future turn towards Russia.

November 5, 2018 - Piotr Oleksy

Belarus in a post-Crimean deadlock

The annexation of Crimea was planned as a response to the decrease in Vladimir Putin’s approval rating in Russia. Now, after the pension reform has been introduced, the president’s rating is lower than that of the military – for the first time ever. It may happen that Belarus becomes the next goal for the Kremlin’s revanchist policies.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s foreign policy towards the countries of the socialist camp extensively followed a simple formula: loyalty of its satellites was bought with cheap natural gas and oil supplies. Today, it is widely implemented by Russia in relation to its post-Soviet neighbours, and its main client is Belarus.

November 5, 2018 - Igor Gretskiy

Past as weakness or strength? The shared history, strained present and uncertain future of Belarus and Lithuania

How can barriers between two historically close countries like Belarus and Lithuania be lowered or eliminated? What are the prospects of improved relations between the two states? Ultimately, closer ties between ordinary Belarusians and Lithuanians could serve as the best guarantor of closer political relations.

During his September 2018 visit to Vilnius, Pope Francis quoted Lithuania’s national anthem and encouraged people to “draw strength from the past”. He reiterated what is often common knowledge: for one to look to the future, one must first know and make peace with the past. In theory the same logic could apply to Lithuania and Belarus, two neighbours that, over the centuries, have spent more time together – that is, belonging to (or being ruled by) the same state – than apart.

November 5, 2018 - Dovilė Šukytė

Behind the thaw

For over two decades Polish-Belarusian relations have been connected to Belarus’s relations with the West. There have been oscillations between years of warming relations and colder periods. Since Russia annexed Crimea and the Russian threat in Eastern Europe has become widely recognised, many European countries have re-evaluated their policies towards Belarus, which although authoritarian is not aggressive. Poland is one such country.

The foundations for a new opening towards Belarus were laid before Poland’s 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections. It was in April 2014, during the first weeks of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, when President Alyaksandr Lukashenka asked the Polish government to join in a mediation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Poland’s prime minister at the time, Donald Tusk, turned down the offer for fear that the Kremlin was behind the initiative. Based on information that I have gathered from sources, this proposal called for placing Belarusian peacekeeping forces in Donbas, thereby disregarding the Crimea issue as well as the guarantee of Ukraine’s neutrality.

November 5, 2018 - Michał Potocki

Germany is wrong in bolstering the status quo in Belarus

The current way of thinking in Germany and the West, in shaping a policy towards Belarus, is to accept the political status quo, normalise relations with Minsk and help the Belarusian state preserve its independence. This view, however, is seriously flawed.

Europe has fundamentally changed its policy towards Belarus in recent years, and Germany is no exception. Previously, Berlin and other EU capitals addressed Minsk with clear demands to improve its dismal record on human rights, elections, civil society and democracy, and they responded with sanctions to the worst violations of these norms. Now, by contrast, the central driver behind German and European policy seems to be Belarusian independence, whose fragility has been thrown into sharp relief by the aggressive Russian return to geopolitics in the region. This effective shift to realpolitik is, however, fraught with problems and its success is far from certain.

November 5, 2018 - Joerg Forbrig

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