Rethinking the Concept of Central Europe with Ukraine as its member: What Kind of “Soft” Connectivity is Needed in a New Geopolitical Reality?
Beyond Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, much has led to the new geopolitical reality in Central Europe, namely Ukraine’s incredible ability to resist both in the military and civil realms successfully and the readiness of the transatlantic West to support Ukraine not just to win the war but also to speed up joining the EU. Ukraine is shaping and consolidating it, redrawing the line between Europe and Eurasia. There is every reason to say that a new geopolitical region has occurred in the Eastern flank of the EU and NATO. It could be identified as the new Central Europe, rooted in the intellectual legacy of F. Naumann’s “Mitteleuropa” and M.Kundera’s “Central Europe as a cultural phenomenon”.
Functioning now mainly on ad hoc decisions, this new Central Europe needs new policies to be sustainable
and prosperous. Undoubtedly, one of the results of this policy should be the EU, and subsequently NATO, enlargement to the east, with the accession of Ukraine and Moldova at the forefront. This policy brief aims to map how policy designing in this context should start. In 2014, parallel to the Russian aggression, Ukraine increasingly became an integral part of the transatlantic West, regardless of whether or not the West was ready to offer Ukraine EU or NATO membership in the foreseeable future. But the visa-free regime, the association agreement with the EU, and numerous reforms, even if not all successful, were Ukrainian steps in the Western direction.
After February 24, 2022, when the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine started, the geopolitical future for Ukraine became non-alternative: If Ukraine is to survive as an independent state, it has to become a member of the EU and NATO. The sooner, the better. Although Ukraine officially applied for membership in both alliances, to the EU on February 28, 2022, and to NATO on September 30, 2022, Ukraine’s accession will take time and tremendous effort in both cases, even though the EU track seems particularly more optimistic. Since 2014 and especially after February 2022, another non-alternativeness for Ukraine has become crystal clear for the last nine years. Interestingly, it was articulated by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book “The Grand Chessboard” back in 1997: “If Ukraine is to survive as an independent state, it will have to become part of Central Europe rather than Eurasia, and if it is to be a part of Central Europe, then it will have to partake fully of Central Europe’s links to NATO and the European Union”.
This decisive interlink and interdependence between the survival of Ukraine as a sovereign state, its transformation into a Central European state, and its accession to the EU and NATO are, unfortunately, still not obvious to many in Ukraine and in the West, even with its strong geopolitical basis. Therefore, there is a strong need and urgency to develop the policy doctrine.
Read more in the policy brief below.