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Category: Issue 1-2 2020

Issue 1-2/2020: Bound to explode?

Now available - the latest issue of NEE looks at the region in 2020 and debates the relationship between Russia and the West.

January 28, 2020 - New Eastern Europe

The West Berlins of our time

An interview with Brian Whitmore, a senior fellow and director of the Russia Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Interviewer: Adam Reichardt

ADAM REICHARDT: I would like to start with a question on one of the main topics we are covering in this issue – which is the movement of some in the West, like French President Emmanuel Macron, and others, who are calling for more dialogue with Russia. Foreign Affairs recently published a piece by Thomas Graham titled “Let Russia be Russia”, where the author writes that the West “should give up any ambitions of expanding NATO farther into the former Soviet space.” What is your take on this? Why are so many voices calling for better relations with Russia despite the fact that Russia has made zero concessions or offered any compromises after its aggression in Ukraine or interference and disinformation campaigns in the West?

BRIAN WHITMORE: There are two ways to look at this. First is the cynical view, that Russia is using its financial network of influence in Europe and the West to push these messages. The other interpretation is that there is a certain level of naiveté in the West when it comes to Russia, and especially Vladimir Putin. Whatever the case, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions here. When we have voices saying, “We should have a dialogue with Russia” – the question is, dialogue about what?

January 28, 2020 - Adam Reichardt Brian Whitmore

The end of the belle époque

It seems that the latest belle époque in western history is nearing its end, which could mean the end of the West as we know it. A miracle can happen, of course, as history is full of unexpected turns and changes, but if the current trends continue we can only await the melancholy of the fin de siècle before another massive change.

The first belle époque preceded the First World War. It took place when, after the end of the French-Prussian war in 1871, European states experienced an extraordinary economic and cultural boom. The telephone, the automobile, as well as the aeroplane were the great inventions of the belle époque which defined our understanding of the comfort and progress of the 20th century. Thanks to these three inventions, as well as peace and prosperity, the Third French Republic and Imperial Germany were able to increase their might and thus rapidly developed.

January 28, 2020 - Paweł Kowal

Putin has done nothing to deserve an extended hand from the West

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited Washington, DC last December for a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a visit to the Oval Office with President Donald Trump. This was Lavrov’s second such visit during the Trump administration; his first visit occurred in May 2017, when pictures emerged of him, Trump, and then-Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, yucking it up in the White House the day after Trump fired the head of the FBI, James Comey.

January 28, 2020 - David J. Kramer

France-Russia, a love-hate history

France has a passionate relationship with Russia: the French love Russia…but they also love to hate Russia. This has been the case at least since the Napoleonic Wars, the Berezina trauma, and the unexpected alliance of 1892 between the young French Republic and tsarist Russia. Today, those contradictory passions are very much alive: in French political debate, Russia has acquired an importance that goes far beyond foreign policy.

January 28, 2020 - Cyrille Bret

To Macron or not to Macron?

When Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the former foreign minister and now federal president of Germany, once tried to describe Germany’s role in Europe; he called it the “chief facilitating officer”. France’s newfound role under Macron now seems to be that of Europe’s “disrupter-in-chief”. That these two roles do not necessarily match is no surprise.

January 28, 2020 - Liana Fix

How not to be a useful idiot in relations with Russia

Russia is a state of mind. This applies not only to Russian citizens, but it also manifests itself in its foreign policy. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014 many have understood that Russia is a revisionist power, one that is seeking to regain its position in the world.

January 28, 2020 - Agnieszka Legucka

A “Grand Bargain”: What would Russia want?

If you take a closer look at the discussion around the “grand bargain”, it is fairly noticeable that it is being mainly conducted in the West. In Russia, this topic is almost irrelevant. The Kremlin’s foreign policy is dictated by the task of preserving the political regime created by Vladimir Putin.

January 28, 2020 - Igor Gretskiy

A clash of narratives

In the clash of narratives between Russia and NATO states, Moscow has clearly gained an upper hand. Russian success stems not only from the fact that the Kremlin has been able to send a much clearer and more coherent message than the Alliance, but also because NATO states do not have one narrative, or counter-narrative.
One of the central concerns when analysing international security and its history is how to explain certain events and their impact on international politics. For policy-makers and societies it is crucial to define “who we are” and “what kind of world order we want”. The passing decade has been marked by a return to a crisis between the West and Russia (sometimes referred to as the New Cold War), with conflict over Russian aggression in Ukraine being the most striking example.

January 28, 2020 - Wojciech Michnik

The battle of the USSR in Georgia rages on

Nearly 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgians who have a sense of pride after they defeated the Soviet Union suddenly find themselves drifting back towards the cultural, informational and economic space of Russia. The stakes are high. There is no doubt that if the process of democratisation deteriorates in Georgia, it will certainly bring the country closer to Russia.
Georgia has always been considered one of the most pro-Western countries of the post-Soviet space. During the late Soviet period, Georgia, together with the three Baltic states, fought for an exit from the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia and the Baltics were the only former republics that refused membership of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The first national non-communist Georgian government set the goal of turning the country into a European state.

January 28, 2020 - Beka Chedia

Rough road ahead for Belarus

Politically, 2019 was a very important year for Belarus. It was dominated by two trends: the authorities pursuing relations with the West and pressure by the Kremlin to deepen the integration of both states.
Growing tensions between Minsk and Moscow, as well as continued attempts to normalise relations with the West, are the main reasons we can call 2019 a ground-breaking year when it comes to the level of meetings that Belarusian officials held with western politicians. On surface they may seem like routine activities of a sovereign state, but in the case of Belarus each meeting sends a signal to the Kremlin.

January 28, 2020 - Maxim Rust

A real game changer in the region

The economic diversification and growing relations with actors other than Russia presents both great opportunities and challenges to the Eastern Partnership states. This includes deepening economic ties with the European Union, but also with China and Turkey. Meanwhile, the outlook for Russia regaining its influence in the region, or at least halting this trend, looks bleak.
In the last few years, several countries participating in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership programme have been working to deepen their economic relationship with the EU, as well as with Turkey and, to a lesser extent, China. These changes in economics will have long term geopolitical consequences. Overall, they come at the expense of Russia’s interest, which remains influential but will be unable to halt the changes with its own economic tools. This is why the Kremlin will try to promote its interests by any means necessary, including force.

January 28, 2020 - Adam Balcer

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