Poland Left Alone as Other Visegrad Group Members Oppose Sanctions Against Russia
Vladislav GULEVICH | 17.09.2014 | OPINION

Poland Left Alone as Other Visegrad Group Members Oppose Sanctions Against Russia

Poland stands for broader sanctions imposed against Russia. The other Visegrad group (also known as the "Visegrad Four" or simply "V4" meaning) member-states -  the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia - oppose this policy.  It’s a bad sign for Poland.In 1991 the group was created to unite East European states against Russia.  Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became NATO members in 1999, Slovakia joined the alliance in 2004. The group implemented its own programs of military integration and interoperability within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance.

In 2011, as Warsaw’s diplomatic efforts intensified, the group took a decision to form a joined force under Polish command. According to plans, the unit is expected to be operational in 2016. The crisis in Ukraine prompts Poland to speed up the process of military cooperation inside the organization. But this time the group is not as unanimous as it used to be. Budapest, Prague, and Bratislava obviously lack enthusiasm when Poland calls for introducing broader sanctions. The Atlantic solidarity failed to convince them that hurting their economic interests would be a right thing to do.     

Prime Ministerof Slovakia RobertFico called for postponing the decision to introduce the new package. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka disagreed with parts of the draft on new European Union’s sanctions against Russia. Herman Achille Van Rompuy failed to convince the opponents that the damage inflicted on them by introducing the sanctions was a price they had to pay.

Prague and Bratislava want the EU to think twice before taking the decision on introducing punitive measures against Russia. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban is more straightforward. According to him, the sanctions will boomerang and hit the European Union more than Russia. He also wants Brussels to compensate the damage to be inflicted on producers.

As a result, Poland is left alone inside the Visegrad group. Warsaw does not exclude the possibility of leaving the “V4”letting partners know they would have to shoulder the military burden and tackle security problems without it. The country boasts the largest military budget among the Visegrad group members. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary see no threat for them to counter. They are reluctant to accept the Poland’s initiatives aimed at boosting the group’s defence potential. The other group’s members are more interested in trade and progress in developing economic ties.  It’s hard for them to follow the Poland’s logic. So Poland tries to do what it wants outside the Visegrad group. The new NATO rapid reaction force will be deployed in Poland, Romania and the Baltic States with its headquarters stationed on Polish soil. Last year Romania and Poland concluded a bilateral agreement on cooperation in defence area.  The both countries perceive Russia as the potential enemy. Warsaw has been putting forward the idea to add the Baltic States to the Visegrad group in the format 4 +.  It’s either membership or some other kind of relationship, but Poland wants the Baltic States to be special partners.

By taking an anti-Russia stand, Poland has to be forever searching for some kind of regional alliances and partnerships. This policy prevents the Russia-Polish ties be as good as the Russia-Hungary or Russia-Slovakia relationship.   Poland tries to become a number one driving force behind the anti-Russia sanctions’ policy. To some extent it relies on Germany. Still, Berlin gives priority to pure calculations, not emotions. It implements a consistent policy devoid of unexpected flip-flops and fluctuations.  When it comes to sanctions Germany sticks to selective approach. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, “Sanctions alone are not a policy…That's why we still need to look for ways to defuse the political conflict."  Polish strategists want no compromises and are not prone to well-calculated and weighted diplomatic moves. Compared to Poland, Germany has a much broader vision of  what its eastern policy should be. 

As the events unfold, Poland has nothing to do but blindly follow the United States. It has failed to find a basis for mutual understanding with Germany. Its Visegrad partners want more wiggle room left for foreign policy maneuvering.  As one can see Eastern Europe is not unanimous on the Russian issue.  Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic understand that the relations with Moscow have promising prospects open for them in case they stand tall and don’t bow to Brussels pressure.   

Tags: Poland 

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