Between Europe and Russia

Kiev, capital of Ukraine
Kiev, capital of Ukraine

Former Soviet-states are a complicated responsibility for the E.U.

by Peter Bjel.

When European policy-makers envisioned the growth of the European Union into former communist countries, they argued for a return to the European mainstream. Countries like Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia, which all joined the E.U. in May 2004, were rejoining a historical community that had been stopped by the Second World War and the subsequent Cold War that left Europe partitioned between a democratic west and a Soviet-run network of satellite regimes. By January 2007, this enlarged bloc was joined by Romania and Bulgaria, whose entrenched communist-era legacies were arguably more difficult to reconcile with the democratic west.

In the political and economic labyrinth that Europe faces at the end of 2013, the bloc’s eastern enlargement serves as a reminder of a clear, long-simmering challenge. The current map of the E.U. halts at the point where a new barrier between ‘East’ and ‘West’ has formed. On both sides of this divide, the geography remains plainly European, but very different fortunes are at work in the nations of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus.

A resurgent Russia’s political and economic assertiveness has become particularly apparent in light of the E.U.’s upcoming Eastern Partnership with Lithuania. In this initiative, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus will have the chance to follow the path of E.U. integration, which is a threat in itself for Moscow.

The realities facing these three nations will have a profound effect on the future of …

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