Europe and difficult choices in the Ukraine war

Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war on February ۲۴ ۲۰۲۲ that is about two years ago the countries of Central Europe (Poland Hungary Czech Republic and Slovakia) have faced difficult geopolitical choices conflicts of interest and political and economic biases. These choices have had their effects on each of these countries.
14 January 2024
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Hamidreza Nafez Arefi

Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, 2022, that is, about two years ago, the countries of Central Europe (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia) have faced difficult geopolitical choices, conflicts of interest, and political and economic biases. These choices have had their effects on each of these countries.

Among the countries of Central Europe, Hungary, despite providing humanitarian and gratuitous aid to Kyiv, providing a safe transition for more than one million Ukrainian asylum seekers, and transferring them to Western European countries by passing through Hungarian territory, has adopted a stable and well-supported policy based on national interests and has been moving in the same direction until now.

Despite the strong opposition and historical hostility with Russia, as well as providing a lot of defense aid to Ukraine, Poland has many problems with Kyiv in issues such as border disputes and allowing the export and transit of Ukrainian grain to other parts of Europe. However, it seems that with the change of the government in Poland and the election of Donald Tusk (the former president of the European Council) as the new prime minister of that country, the relations between Warsaw and Kyiv will improve. Poland's policies towards Ukraine will be aligned and more coordinated with the policies of Brussels.

Prague and Bratislava are also considered to be strong drivers of support for Kyiv within the Western bloc (Euro-Atlantic Union) and have always been supporters of Ukraine financially and militarily. Still, Budapest has a different view and contrasts with its neighbors towards Kyiv and has continued this policy, especially as the war in Ukraine has dragged on.

Of course, it should be noted that Hungary is both a member of NATO and a member of the European Union and is somehow required to implement all its obligations based on the rules and regulations of these two institutions and adhere to their decisions. However, geopolitics is tied here to the national identity of Hungarians.

Despite the allocation of financial aid from the European Union to the member countries during the coronavirus epidemic, due to the same differences between Brussels and Budapest, the European Commission (as the governing structure of this Union, which has the final word on the economy and the allocation of EU support funds to the member countries) prevented the payment of about 10 billion euros of aid to Hungary.

Regarding the issue of national identity, the first issue is the presence of the Hungarian minority living in the eastern parts of Ukraine, which Kyiv is not ready to recognize their basic ethnic and national rights, including the teaching of the Hungarian language. The second issue is the geopolitical view of Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, on the main issue of the war in Ukraine, which, while rejecting it, considers the continuation of the war to the detriment of all European countries, including his own country.

The Prime Minister of Hungary is one of the long-standing European figures (in fact, the longest-standing prime minister among the EU members) who has emphasized his country's national interests even at the cost of Brussels sanctions and has continued with his announced policies.

Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that Russia supplies 65-75% of Hungary's energy, and the second nuclear power plant, Paks, which Russia is helping build and is worth 10 billion dollars, will be put into operation near Budapest by the end of this decade.

Therefore, despite the insistence of major European countries to continue helping Ukraine, and the continuation of this policy, it is only Hungary that has been able to establish a relative balance between its national interests and the method of interfering in the war.

It can be expected that the war in 2024 may not continue with the intensity and violence of the last two years, but on a more balanced scale and less extensive because the final fate of the war is dependent and connected to several extra-regional variables that have involved not only Central Europe but also the regions beyond it.

Hamidreza Nafez Arefi, an expert in international relations

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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