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Europe: Scholar Says Europe’s Security Policy Becoming 'Easternized'

  • Don Hill

Prague, 12 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the "Westernization" of Eastern Europe. The words sometimes seem to conjure up the image of the EU and NATO with new-member states such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic tacked on like a tail. Now comes think-tank scholar and author Tomas Valasek with a new book -- "The Easternization of Europe's Security Policy." Valasek writes that these newcomers bring their own perspectives and policies to the European table. There will be instances, he says, of the Eastern tail wagging the Western dog. RFE/RL interviews Valasek, director of the Brussels office of the independent Center for Defense Information.

RFE/RL: What exactly do you mean by the title, "Easternization of Europe's Security Policy"?

Valasek: Well, 'Easternization' is obviously a parody of 'Westernization.' The idea of the words came to me when I realized that the enlargement of the European Union was viewed as too much of a one-sided affair. It was viewed as a sort of extension of Western values eastward. But it occurred to me that it also worked the other way around.

RFE/RL: How so?

Valasek: There is no secret that the new member states come with a certain set of ideas -- on the importance of the U.S. relationship with the former Soviet Union, now with Russia. And it occurs to me that it is very likely that enlargement of the European Union will have an effect on the center of gravity, if you will, in Europe on what defense and foreign policy the European Union should have. So we set out to write a book to explore that idea.

RFE/RL: You suggest in the book that the new Eastern members of the EU are more supportive of current U.S. policies than are many of the established Western EU members. Why should that be?

Valasek: It is a combination of reasons. The one that is most often mentioned is a sort of nostalgia, a sense of gratitude. And surely it's alive, the sense of gratitude for the role of the United States and [U.S.] President [Ronald] Reagan in particular during the Cold War.
"Slovakia shows that there is simply nothing cast in stone about the pro-U.S. direction of the new member states. Given the right political circumstances and, surely of course, if the anti-U.S. sentiment keeps increasing, there is a potential that the new member states will change their foreign policy."


RFE/RL: Yes?

Valasek: But it really goes further than that. It is a simple geopolitical calculation. The new member states are on the fringes of Europe. They have a band of potentially unstable states to their east -- Belarus, Ukraine, not to mention Russia. And they simply have a keener appreciation for the sort of geopolitical thinking that comes from Washington rather than Europe.

RFE/RL: Now I know you received a good deal of your education in the United States -- your master's degree in international relations from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. And you are a native Slovak and you once worked as a journalist for the Slovak Service of RFE/RL. It sounds as though you personally are sold on the Eastern point of view as you describe it.

Valasek: "I think it would be wrong to think that the enlargement of the European Union will simply consist of the [established] member states extending their notion of foreign policy eastward. I think that the new member states have a very clearly articulated set of policies on the importance of NATO, the United States, and Russia, and I think it's just a matter of time before they really start leaving their mark on the actual output of the European Union, on the European Security and Defense Policy.

RFE/RL: Your book examines especially the policies of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. And it emphasizes the support that the last three have given to the U.S. Iraq war, despite the substantial dislike of their populations for the war. But Slovakia went the way of Spain. The electorate rebelled, changed governments, and thus reversed the unpopular foreign policy. What is to keep the Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles from doing likewise?

Valasek: So I think Slovakia shows that there is simply nothing cast in stone about the pro-U.S. direction of the new member states. Given the right political circumstances and, surely of course, if the anti-U.S. sentiment keeps increasing, there is a potential that the new member states will change their foreign policy.

RFE/RL: How severely, in your judgment, has the Iraq war tainted the atmosphere and weakened the support of the enlarged EU for the United States?

Valasek: Clearly, the most important single issue that is driving the new member states away from Washington, if you will, is Iraq. The decision to go to war is often perceived as a unjust and unjustified, and the conduct of the operations there seems to have borne out the skepticism of the antiwar camp, Germany and France, rather than the optimistic U.S. prediction.
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