What Is Happening in Central Europe?

Forecasting the development of our relations with the Central European countries is a thankless job against the backdrop of the crisis and the self-isolation of states. Everyone is now trying to save themselves.

Incidentally, the Central European countries have suffered less from the coronavirus than France, Germany, Italy and other leading EU states. Of the Visegrad countries, the Czech Republic has the highest number of diagnosed cases of the disease, but luckily no deaths so far. Both facts show that the Czech healthcare system is better prepared for major threats. Last year, it demonstrated its ability to suppress the measles. Now the main goal is to save people and later the economy. Incidentally, in Hungary some plants are already under military control. The Czech Healthcare Minister was the first to express the need for border closures and was instantly criticized by Ursula von der Leyen (she is a doctor by education, no?) who accused the Czech Republic of violating the Schengen Agreement. 

As for your question about Russias relations with the Central European countries, nothing extraordinary is taking place. Over the past few years we have been both moving away from and coming closer to each other with every domestic political and ideological change. Now these countries that successfully reformed their economies and socio-political systems over the past three decades are completing the formation of their ideological bonds. Hence, they have revised history, and their ideological guidelines, and the past 30 years, not to mention the key events of the 20th century. These are the domestic affairs of these countries although their outlook increasingly matches the general European line. This is also understandable  allied relations are a top priority. 

In Soviet times, we also had bilateral academic commissions of historians, which influenced the assessments of the events in the 20th century and dovetailed them to a common party line, creating a common approach to landmarks of history and our relations. The course changed 30 years ago as representatives of long-term opposition to this course came to power. We also changed the assessment of our own history more than once in the late 1980s.

There is no need to react to every turn in the historical studies in these countries especially since they are meant for domestic consumption, for creating a nations ideological foundation. If we finally adopted our own line, nobody can blame us for following it, especially considering that, as practice shows, trade is not dependent on an evaluation of the complicated periods of our common history. Yes, we have differences with the Central European countries on reviewing the events of late 1939, notably the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The politicians are fueling the current confrontation in this context. However, there are no disagreements on the contribution to victory over Nazism with the Central European countries, including even those that fought against the USSR. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz admitted this in a number of recent interviews. Czech President Milos Zeman will attend the anniversary parade in Moscow  pandemic notwithstanding. 

In preparing for a visit to Moscow it was natural to gather senior executives in Prague to discuss an outline for positive talks. The same is true of a high-ranking Polish delegation that will visit the tragic plane accident site near Smolensk. April 10 will be ten years since the death of Lech Kaczynski and a number of other Polish leaders in the shocking air disaster. It is important to display sympathy and understanding at this point rather than use dates for political purposes, especially since this could improve our relations. 

I would not necessarily call Russophobia criticism of certain steps by Russia in the Central European countries since it is targeted against specific political decisions rather than the people. There are critics of the current policies of the ruling parties in these countries, as well. We have them, too. Eventually, these nations will adopt an acceptable approach via evolution. The same applies to the Baltic states.

Will the crisis affect our relations? I dont think it can do any more than what has already been done by the sanctions, especially since Russia, which has no other sanction opportunities, has already dealt a blow at their agriculture and food industries by banning exports. Of course, the confusion of the EU in such a difficult time will leave its imprint, but this will only result in the redistribution of roles within the EU and enhance the prestige of those countries that were the first to raise the alarm over the need to counter the threat at an early stage. These were the countries in Central Europe. 
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.