THE WARSAW INSTITUTE REVIEW
Date: 05 May 2021
Author: Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski
The eastern flank of the West: Central Europe in the face of a dynamic world situation
Mass protests in Belarus, the smoldering Russo-Ukrainian war, erosion of the power system in Russia, the war between two Eastern Partnership countries – Azerbaijan and Armenia, the frozen conflict in Transnistria, the evolving situation in Moldova, the meandering of Turkey’s policy towards Russia, the USA, NATO and the EU, the election-related political crisis in the US, and the yet unknown vectors of the foreign policy of Joe Biden’s administration, the third crisis in a row in the European Union – after this in the Eurozone, (2008–13) and those related to immigration (2015–16), and currently to the COVID-19 pandemic (2020–2021), the political twists and turns it is facing in connection with the elections in the Netherlands (March 17, 2021) and in the three largest EU member states: Germany (September 26, 2021), France, and Italy (2022), as well as possible early elections in the fourth largest EU country, Spain, torn by all the EU crises and Catalan separatism… These are examples of factors, which make it necessary for the countries located on the eastern flank of NATO and the European Union to prepare for possible bad scenarios and demonstrate their ability to face them. What potential do they have and what could they do to, if not integrate, then coordinate their potential; to what extent should they do it and in what directions? What structures for such integration do already exist, and to what degree are they advanced? What is the main challenge for these countries, and what constitutes a mere shortcoming in resisting these negative scenarios?
The main challenge – Russia
Russia remains the main challenge for the entire eastern flank of the EU and NATO, from Scandinavia in the north to Turkey in the south. The reason is Russia’s “character” and the geographical location of its closest neighbors. This is what makes situation of these countries very similar (although with some important differences) to that of the post-Soviet states in the region – from Belarus, through Ukraine and Moldova, to Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Norway is feeling the pressure of Russia’s policy in the Arctic. Sweden and Finland (just like Baltic states and Poland) are the Russian war games subjects as part of the recurring Zapad military exercise. The Russian military threat is now considered so high in these countries that each of them has undertaken programs of extensive rearmament and restoration of the defensive capabilities of their armies, which had been reduced or neglected before 2014.
On the other hand, Belarus, a country remaining in the Russian sphere of influence, is currently protesting against its dictatorial rule – still upheld thanks to Moscow’s support. When it comes to Ukraine, it is now at war with Russia over the Donbas and potentially over the seized Crimea. Romania is strongly affected by the rise of Russian power in the Black Sea after the peninsula’s annexation and is historically and ethnically linked to Moldova. Georgia was a victim of Russian aggression in 1992–1993 and then again in 2008. It currently takes part in a frozen armed conflict with Russia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Azerbaijan and Turkey broke up the monopoly of Russian influence in the Caucasus by defeating Russia’s ally, Armenia, in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Ankara additionally competes with Moscow in the complicated game in Syria and is fighting a proxy war with Moscow in Libya.
Russia is not governed in a way respecting the interests of ordinary Russians nor following the path of the interests of an Empire it would like to pass for around the world. The political compass of the group in power in the Kremlin headed by Putin is its clan interest. Due to the lack of space for a broader description, let it be characterized by the fact that this is the only political elite in the history of humanity that proclaims imperial ambitions but keeps its private money outside the territory of the empire it is building. Their primary goal is to stay in power. Their other aims – including the construction of a superpower – belong to operational rather than strategic goals. For the Russian political class, the ruling is more important than the empire. In this context, we should remember that, in the struggle for power in the Kremlin, Boris Yeltsin contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union to take Gorbachev’s place.
Elections in Russia are won because one is in power, and not one is in power because one has won an election. The primary source of legitimacy for undemocratic governments is their effectiveness. Putin has so far legitimized his more than 20-year rule by increasing the standard of living of Russians. This, however, was not difficult after the economic crash of the 1990s, which resulted in a very low starting point, and amid high oil and gas prices on world markets. 2013, however, was the last year in which incomes in Russia grew. At that time, Russia played out its imperial theater entitled “Crimea is ours,” which bolstered the Russian president’s image for years to come. However, the fall in oil prices, the invasion of Ukraine and related Western sanctions, the oligarchic and corruption-based model of the economy, and finally the COVID-19 pandemic translated into the fact that for the past eight years, Russia has seen a trend opposite to that of the first decade of this century.
The real income of Russians fell by more than 12% – 5% in 2020 compared to 2019. Between 2013 and 2020, the number of Russians living in poverty rose from about 16.5 million to nearly 20 million, which constitutes 14% of the population. There is no indication that this trend can be reversed. And although, according to polls, 53% of Russians still express trust in Putin, as society’s standard of living worsens, the Kremlin might be tempted to make use of another imperial theater to increase the prestige of its rule.
Certain signals, which are also trial balloons testing the reaction to publicly formulated plans for the annexation of Donbas by Russia – so far in the form of “requests of the people to the Tsar” – are already observable. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not endorse this position, it did not distance from it either and it would be hard to assume that the editor-in-chief of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine RT would make such calls spontaneously. However, since the primary goal of the Kremlin leaders is not, as indicated above, to rebuild the empire but to stay in power, a “small successful war” can be fought in any direction that could guarantee success. This means that all Russia’s neighbors are at threat (although not to the same degree), and the best way to block this bad scenario is to demonstrate to the decision-makers in Moscow that no war will be small. Whether it will prove successful and for whom remains an open question – so risky that testing the answer has not paid off for Putin, given his primary goal of staying in power.
COVID-19 caused another crisis for the European Union. Although the coronavirus pandemic’s medical aspects are not a subject of this article, its political and economic consequences are severe and worth mentioning. Belgian debt as of November 2020 reached 117.6% of its GDP, French – 118.7%, Spanish – 123.0%, Portuguese – 137.2%, Italian – 161.8%, Greek – 205.2% (compared to 59.3% in the Netherlands, 60.0% in Poland, and 73.2% in Germany).
Debt levels are mounting everywhere due to the lockdown reintroduced during the second wave of the pandemic. The countries of the north (the “frugal camp” – Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Scandinavia) are under pressure from their electorates to “end the transfer union.” This would reduce the outflow of their citizens’ tax money for transfers to poorer EU countries from the east and the south. The south, where the previous two crises and the current one have been the most dramatic, demands support. A failure to provide it could translate into an economic collapse in the region and the downfall of its purchasing power. This, in turn, could bring the crisis to the north since it would lose southern markets.
On the other hand, the east came out well from the first wave of COVID-19 but was hit hard by the second one. Since it has a good economic prognosis, it is treated as an indispensable resource for minimizing the problems of the north, whether by cutting transfers on the pretense of “punishing Poland and Hungary for violating the rule of law” or by introducing such rules of repayment of EU debts incurred for the Reconstruction Fund that would transfer a significant part of them onto the countries of the eastern flank. This, in turn, takes the burden off taxpayers in the north.
Another thing that adds up to this game is the deep ideological resentment of the progressivist EU mainstream against Poland and Hungary’s conservative governments. Regardless of the outcome, Germany, backed by the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, and the Scandinavians, cannot extend credit to France, Italy, and Spain. First of all, the former do not have the resources to do so, and secondly, they would not get the approval of their own voters to use them effectively. Therefore, the EU is now facing a series of shocks. This means that its attention and resources will be only slightly devoted to solving the problems of the countries on its eastern flank. This also means that the EU will be a fragile institution in the context of any support for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in their relations with Moscow. It will probably rather act to achieve the appeasement, and thus against the interests of the region. The German stubbornness in pursuing Nord Stream 2 and the will of the EU mainstream to reach an agreement with the Kremlin, demonstrated by Josep Borrell’s visit to Moscow despite the objections of Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states in the middle of “Navalny’s case,” also lead to this conclusion.
The change in the White House results in the “un-Trumping” of American politics. To what extent and in what directions will this process affect US foreign policy is still an open question. With regard to Central Europe, the positive part is that on November 18, 2020, the House of Representatives of the US Congress unanimously passed Resolution H. RES 672 in support of the Three Seas Initiative. It did so by demonstrating bipartisan agreement of both Republicans and Democrats.
Biden’s victory should therefore not change Washington’s attitude toward this important Central European integration scheme. So far, there has been no indication of any reduction in the US military presence on NATO’s eastern flank – a presence that has been significantly increased during Trump’s presidency and legally recognized in the Polish-American military agreement signed on August 15, 2020. However, the ideas announced by Hilary Clinton on how to restructure US military spending and cut expenditure on traditional weapons could reverse this trend over the next few years. Ambitions of Biden’s administration to rebuild good relations with the EU core states may also result in a return, at least temporary – until Washington inevitably becomes disappointed with Germany’s and France’s attitude – to the idea of shifting responsibility for the defense of NATO’s eastern flank onto Europe’s most powerful ally, Germany. An offer proposed to the US regarding the role of this country in sharing NATO’s transatlantic security burdens was made by Germany’s Defense Minister on October 23, 2020.
The possible adoption of this line in American policy would result in a relative decrease in the significance of Central Europe in Washington’s plans and in the pressure exerted by the US on the countries in the region to coordinate their actions with Germany. That would include engagements regarding relations with Russia or the Three Seas Initiative integration. The democratic administration of the USA would most probably start to exert ideological pressure on the conservative governments of Poland and Hungary, similar to one of mainstream EU member states. It would have a disrupting effect, both on the Polish political landscape and Poland’s ability to consolidate smaller states in the region around political projects promoted by Warsaw.
Without Poland, integration of Central Europe would not be possible. A collapse of this cooperation would result in the region’s passivity in the face of the upcoming challenges and relying on solutions worked out and implemented by external forces (Germany and Russia). It would cause a decrease of American influence in Europe, which would lead to the disintegration of the countries on NATO’s eastern flank – the states that are most afraid of Russia and are therefore strongly pro-American – that have so far cooperated with each other as part of the Bucharest Nine and the Three Seas Initiative. One can only hope that this is also understood in Washington, as evidenced by the resolution mentioned above of the House of Representatives on the Three Seas Initiative and the unceasing US pressure to block the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 project. Joe Biden’s declared willingness to “counter Russian aggression” and the negative experience of members of his administration with the “reset” with Russia from the era of Barack Obama are cause for optimism. On the other hand, the extension of the New START deal on January 26, 2021, in fact on Russia’s terms, which the Trump administration refused to accept, provides arguments against such enthusiasm. After all, the removal of the burden of the nuclear arms race from the floundering Russian economy and the approval of Russia’s superiority in non-strategic missiles (for instance, the Iskander type) is a step toward a significant reduction of the pressure so far exerted by Washington on Moscow rather than a tightening towards containing Russia’s neo-imperial moves. (It is important to note as well that the money that has been saved in that way in Russian budget will be used for conventional armaments – unlikely the nuclear ones – and applied in wars against the Russian neighbors). The answer to the question as to which of the declared policy lines of the new US administration is rhetoric and which is the real compass of its conduct will be known in the coming months.
Another challenge, now completely unpredictable in terms of scale and effects, may come from the American direction. The problem is the old age of the 46th president of the United States and his possible sudden, permanent inability to hold office. If so happened, Biden would be replaced by Vice President Kamala Harris. Her intensely left-wing beliefs would result in the intensification of ideological pressure on Poland. The vice-president’s position on “hard policy” issues (for instance, military, energy) concerning Central Europe and Russia is still unknown.
Changes in the major EU countries are inevitable – they result from Germany, France, and Italy’s constitutionally mandated electoral calendar. The most important event for Central Europe will be the election in Germany and the end of the sixteen-year long era of Chancellor Angela Merkel. She will most likely be replaced by Armin Laschet (CDU), supported by 28% of Germans, or Markus Söder (CSU) – 54%. However, the chancellor is not elected by the citizens in a popular vote but by the Bundestag.
The election results of both Christian Democrat parties in the elections to the parliaments of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate (March 14) and Saxony-Anhalt (June 6), which serve as forecasts of the results of the national elections in September, will probably determine the positions of both candidates. Laschet belongs to the category of German politicians described as Russland-Versteher – literally ‘understanding Russia’, but, in fact, it should be translated as ‘indulgent with Russia’. Whether he becomes chancellor and what policy Germany will outline under the new government remains an open question, with a high risk that – from the point of view of Central European interests – Berlin’s position will change for the worse (and become, for instance, more pro-Russian and anti-American).
On the other hand, there should be no significant changes in the Polish-German relations and German EU policy. What will remain will be the strong German pressure on climate policy and the ideological conflict with Poland taking place mainly in the media and concerning the so-called ‘European values.’ This pressure may notably strengthen if the new American administration decides to endorse it. Germany is already looking for ways to win Washington over to the concept of a ‘common fight against populism’. An increasing instrument of pressure on Poland (but also, according to political needs, on any other country of Central and Southern Europe) will be the so-called conditionality (in other words, “money for the rule of law”) mechanism, approved at the EU summit on December 10, 2020. The full-scale political use of this tool will probably occur between the parliamentary elections in Hungary (2022) and Poland (2023) to break the Polish-Hungarian solidarity on this issue. However, it is possible that – if the consolidation process of the Hungarian opposition against Fidesz is progressing – the EU will attempt to support it and start putting pressure using this mechanism already during the Hungarian parliamentary election campaign.
Central Europe’s own resources
To date, Central Europe has shaped three central regional integration structures: the Visegrad Group (V4), the Bucharest Nine (B9), and the Three Seas Initiative (TSI).
The Visegrad Group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia) is Germany’s largest market in the world (larger than China, the US, and France), and its cohesiveness varies over time (increasing or weakening depending on the moment and thematic scope). Its current consolidation followed the change of government in Poland in 2015 as part of a solidary opposition to the EU’s imposition of a policy of forced distribution of migrant quotas. In 2019, it united in rejecting Frans Timmermans’ candidacy to head the European Commission. However, the cohesiveness of the V4 remains selective and periodic, the example of which is the conflict between Poland and Hungary against the EU mainstream, in which the Czech commissioner, Věra Jourová, is one of the key figures of the EU mainstream’s propaganda attacks on the governments in Warsaw and Budapest. Obviously, commissioners do not formally report to their respective governments, but Jourová is a former deputy chairperson of the ANO party, now led by the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš.
The Bucharest Nine (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) is, in fact, a lobbying group within NATO. It does not have an independent military deterrence capability and has no plans to acquire one. Its effectiveness comes from its ability to influence NATO decisions. Its active leading states with a strong sense of Russian threat (Poland, the Baltic states, and Romania) are strongly pro-American, and it is the support received from the US that has so far determined the lobbying capabilities of the entire group. A possible change in US foreign policy under Biden would considerably reduce the significance of this idea for cooperation in Central Europe.
The Three Seas Initiative (the Baltic, the Adriatic, the Black Sea) is not and will not become a political or military bloc in the foreseeable future. It is a platform for cooperation between countries on the European Union’s eastern flank (EU membership is a condition for full membership in the Three Seas Initiative) on infrastructure development encompassing three dimensions: transport and communication, energy, and digitalization.
It has a chance to transform the Single European Market in the CEE region, proclaimed in the Single European Act, from legal to material, and to create infrastructural market connections in an area covering at least 111 million consumers, with a perspective to expand by several dozen million more in partnership with countries outside the EU (Ukraine, Moldova, the Western Balkans).
The US sees the Three Seas Initiative as a counterweight to China’s 17+1 initiative and an important market for its gas – provided it supplants Russian gas – which is a significant reason for both Washington’s support for the whole action and its pressure to block a competing route for supplies of gas to Europe in the form of Nord Stream 2. These motives fit well with the interests of Central Europe, which seeks independence from Russian gas blackmail.
The Lublin Triangle – launched on July 28, 2020, as a forum for ministerial cooperation between the heads of diplomacy of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine – is the most recent regional initiative. The outbreak of protests in Belarus following the rigged presidential election has become the leading topic of discussion between its three neighbors. Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine attach great importance to the fate of Belarus, as evidenced by the fact that they decided to keep an empty chair in their meetings – symbolizing the anticipation for a representative from that country to take it once given a democratic mandate to represent the Belarusian people. The Lublin Triangle is still in the course of being formed. It is currently not a deeply integrated structure and does not constitute a shield against the threats mentioned in the introduction.
In the most pessimistic scenario, Central Europe will have to confront the Russian challenge in an international setting shaped by the possible weakness (at least in its initial period) of the presidency of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and by the passive attitude of the European Union. The EU is immersed in its internal problems and generally oriented towards an agreement with Russia, while being reluctant to “backward and populist-ruled” Central European states in which “Russia has had its justified security interests for centuries”.
Structures of regional integration in Central Europe cannot be a basis for stabilizing security or an instrument for dealing with threats arising either from Russia’s aggressiveness or from internal problems of the EU and the US, the latter of which reduce their preparedness to solve problems of our region. Each of them would be too weak for such a scenario. What is more, there is no possibility for any of them to immediately strengthen to such a level that would be commensurate with the scale of the challenge. This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done.
Breaking the “rule of law conditionality” for access to EU funds is in the interest of all V4 members and all Three Seas Initiative countries, including Austria. However, we should not expect that many countries would be willing to participate in a political battle against the EU core powers alongside Poland and Hungary. The countries that are not under pressure themselves will not join this conflict voluntarily and will not bear its costs. Instead, they will choose to estimate that the dispute will either be won – thanks to Warsaw’s determination also to their advantage – or lost, in the case of which they will avoid the prestige-related and political costs of a likely defeat.
However, the consolidation of the region for the internal EU game’s purposes is now possible for several reasons. First, the pressure from the EU core states on subsequent countries increases. Secondly, the ineffectiveness of the European Union in resolving real problems (such as the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration, debt, the Russian threat) is relatively easy to predict. What is more, the EU imposes unbearable ideological and economic burdens (radical climate policy, left-wing extremism, attempts to shift the costs of the immigration and debt crisis) onto poorer Central European societies while reducing the transfer of funds under regional and agricultural policies.
The Russian challenge is much more serious, and the means to address it are more severe – they concern the expansion of one’s military capabilities and solidarity defense in the event of aggression. The former aspect of cooperation may extend beyond NATO, while the latter most probably not – unless it is NATO that would be attacked, and Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova joined an anti-Russia alliance to resolve their own conflicts with the Kremlin. The only armies in the region with a promising potential in the event of a conflict with Russia are that of Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. This fact should be taken into account by all other countries.
A separate and intricate problem is the conceivable attitude of Turkey – a country supplying Ukraine with war material and weapons. Given Ankara’s potential, its stance could be decisive if NATO’s Western European core, influenced by Russian propaganda, its own pacifism, and the negative image of the EU’s eastern flank created by internal EU disputes, delays the fulfillment of its alliance obligations towards Poland or the Baltic States. This has been noticed by Poland and Romania, both of which maintain a friendly dialogue with Turkey.
Another possible way to enhance the defense capabilities of Central Europe is to intensify the cooperation of its defense industries and encourage the Three Seas Initiative to add it to the scope of its activities. Scandinavia would be a very good partner in this respect as it possesses well-developed military technology and brings the prestige of the “Old West” to IT. For Poland, such cooperation would translate into an attempt to succeed in the markets of the Bucharest Nine and Ukraine with high-quality products of the Polish defense industry. It would especially involve such product ranges where this industry is competitive (for instance, small arms – Grot assault rifles, Grom man-portable rocket launchers, reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles, Krab howitzers, Rak mortars, and more).
There is no example in Polish history of giving in to a foreign invasion without a fight. The Baltic countries, which paid a terrible price in blood and slavery for capitulating in 1939, are now inspired by the example of Finland – which resisted and survived. Therefore, they will certainly not surrender, regardless of what other countries choose to do. The negative scenarios outlined above, even if they come true and cause the temporary or permanent isolation of Central Europe, will not lead to Chamberlain’s “peace for our time.” Peace can only be ensured by effective deterrence through a consolidated NATO led by a determined United States. Any other route would increase the risk of war.
 Gotkowska, J., Oslo się zbroi, Polska Zbrojna 1, January 2017, pp. 110–112; cf. Ida, Norweski sposób na Rosję. Polityka obronna Norwegii – wnioski dla regionu Morza Bałtyckiego, Punkt Widzenia 38, Centre for Eastern Studies, January 2014, p. 49.
 Gotkowska, J. Kryzys rosyjsko-ukraiński a polityka bezpieczeństwa i obrony Szwecji, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, May 28, 2014, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2014-05-28/kryzys-rosyjsko-ukrainski-a-polityka-bezpieczenstwa-i-obrony-szwecji; cf. Ida, Aurora: Szwedzka odpowiedź na Zapad, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, September 20, 2017, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2017-09-20/aurora-szwedzka-odpowiedz-na-zapad and Gotkowska, J, Szymański, P., Szwedzkie i fińskie obawy o wyspy na Bałtyku, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, October 26, 2016, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2016-10-26/szwedzkie-i-finskie-obawy-o-wyspy-na-baltyku.
 Chudziak, M., Rodkiewicz, W., Walki w Idlibie: kryzys w stosunkach turecko-rosyjskich, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, February 26, 2020, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2020-02-26/walki-w-idlibie-kryzys-w-stosunkach-turecko-rosyjskich and Chudziak, M., Rodkiewicz, W. Korzystny dla Moskwy kompromis rosyjsko-turecki w sprawie Idlibu, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, March 11, 2020,
 Rodkiewicz, W. Rosyjska gra konfliktem libijskim, Centre for Eastern Studies Analyses, January 15, 2020, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2020-01-15/rosyjska-gra-konfliktem-libijskim.
 Domanska, M., Menkiszak, M., Rogoża, J., Wiśniewska, I., Rosja u progu 2021 roku. Sytuacja polityczna, społeczna i gospodarcza, Centre for Eastern Studies Commentaries 371, January 8, 2021, p. 5.
 The poll, commissioned by the Russian Public Opinion Foundation, was conducted on January 22–24, 2021, i.e., after Alexei Navalny’s film about Putin’s palace was made public and while the ongoing protests in Russia were already taking place. Sondaż: Putinowi ufa 53 proc. Rosjan, Kresy24.pl, January 29, 2021, https://kresy24.pl/sondaz-putinowi-ufa-53-proc-rosjan/.
 Redaktor naczelna „Russia Today” wezwała rosyjskie władze do aneksji Donbasu, Kresy24.pl, January 28, 2021, https://kresy24.pl/redaktor-naczelna-russia-today-wezwala-rosyjskie-wladze-do-aneksji-donbasu/ and: „Separatyści” z tzw. Ługańskiej i Donieckiej Republik Ludowych ogłosili doktrynę aneksji Donbasu, Kresy24.pl, January 28, 2021, https://kresy24.pl/separatysci-z-tzw-luganskiej-i-donieckiej-republik-ludowych-oglosili-doktryne-aneksji-donbasu/. To read more on Ukraine’s reaction, see Ironiczny komentarz MSZ Ukrainy do wczorajszych deklaracji na forum „Rosyjski Donbas”, Kresy24.pl, January 29, 2021, https://kresy24.pl/ironiczny-komentarz-msz-ukrainy-do-wczorajszych-deklaracji-z-forum-rosyjski-donbas/. For more on the whole issue, see: Szoszyn, R. Donbas – rosyjska bomba z opóźnionym zapłonem?, Rzeczpospolita, January 28, 2021, https://www.rp.pl/Konflikt-na-Ukrainie/301289920-Donbas—rosyjska-bomba-z-opoznionym-zaplonem.html.
 Reakcja Kremla na wezwanie Simonian o przyłączeniu Donbasu do Rosji, Kresy24.pl, January 28, 2021, https://kresy24.pl/reakcja-kremla-na-wezwanie-simonian-o-przylaczeniu-donbasu-do-rosji/.
 L. Ventura, The World’s Most Indebted Governments 2020, Global Finance, January 31, 2021, https://www.gfmag.com/global-data/economic-data/public-debt-percentage-gdp.
 Wolska, A. Szef unijnej dyplomacji pojedzie do Rosji mimo sprzeciwu Polski i państw bałtyckich, EURACTIV.pl, January 25, 2021, https://www.euractiv.pl/section/polityka-zagraniczna-ue/news/szef-unijnej-dyplomacji-pojedzie-do-rosji-mimo-sprzeciwu-polski-i-panstw-baltyckich/.
 H.Res.672 – Expressing support of the Three Seas Initiative in its efforts to increase energy independence and infrastructure connectivity, thereby strengthening the United States and European national security. 116th Congress (2019–2020), Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/672. See Żurawski vel Grajewski, P. Izba Reprezentantów Kongresu USA z ponadpartyjnym poparciem Trójmorza, TVP Info, November 22, 2020, https://www.tvp.info/50918608/przemyslaw-zurawski-vel-grajewski-dlaczego-amerykanie-popieraja-trojmorze.
 Umowa między Rządem Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej a Rządem Stanów Zjednoczonych Ameryki o wzmocnionej współpracy obronnej, podpisana w Warszawie dnia 15 sierpnia 2020 r., Office Journal 2020.2153, https://sip.lex.pl/akty-prawne/dzu-dziennik-ustaw/usa-polska-umowa-o-wzmocnionej-wspolpracy-obronnej-warszawa-2020-08-15-19051809.
 Clinton, H. A National Security Reckoning. How Washington Should Think About Power, Foreign Affairs 99 (6), November/December 2020, pp. 88–99. For commentary, see Świerczyński, M., Clinton nie chce czołgów. Dlaczego to ważne dla Polski?, Polityka, October 19, 2020, https://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/swiat/1975374,1,clinton-nie-chce-czolgow-dlaczego-to-wazne-dla-polski.read.
 Speech by Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on the occasion of the presentation of the Steuben Schurz Media Award on October 23, 2020, in Frankfurt/Main, Bundesministerium der Verteidigung, pp. 1–13. https://nato.diplo.de/blob/2409698/75266e6a100b6e35895f431c3ae66c6d/20201023-rede-akk-medienpreis-data.pdf; cf.: positive commentary by Kluth, A., Germany Is Ready to Offer America a New Deal, The Washington Post, October 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/germany-is-ready-to-offer-america-a-new-deal/2020/10/28/4eca99de-18eb-11eb-8bda-814ca56e138b_story.html and the commentary which cools down enthusiasm: Küfner, M., Minister obrony gra Amerykanom marsza, ale nikt nie słucha. Opinia., Deutsche Welle, October 30, 2020, https://www.dw.com/pl/minister-obrony-gra-amerykanom-marsza-ale-nikt-nie-s%C5%82ucha-opinia/a-55452701.
 Biden, J.R., Jr., Why America Must Lead Again Rescuing US Foreign Policy After Trump, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-01-23/why-america-must-lead-again.
 For a more extensive discussion, see Kacprzyk, A., Przedłużenie obowiązywania układu Nowy START, PISM Spotlights 10/2021, January 27, 2021, pp. 1–2. The author emphasizes the positive sides of the agreement, pointing to the increased cohesiveness of NATO. However, the latter relies on the US agreeing “not to draw Europe into a new arms race with Russia,” and, therefore, also suits the Kremlin’s interests.
 Frymark, K., Bez eksperymentów: Armin Laschet nowym przewodniczącym CDU, Analyses of the Centre for Eastern Studies, January 19, 2021, https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/analizy/2021-01-19/bez-eksperymentow-armin-laschet-nowym-przewodniczacym-cdu.
 Budzisz, M., Armin Laschet, czyli „rozumiejący Putina”. Moskwa z pewnością przyjmuje nowego szefa CDU z zadowoleniem, wPolityce.pl, January 17, 2021, https://wpolityce.pl/swiat/535200-armin-laschet-czyli-rozumiejacy-putina; cf. Kokot, M., Czy Armin Laschet, nowy szef niemieckiej CDU, będzie wyrozumiały wobec Putina?, Wyborcza.pl, January 20, 2021, https://wyborcza.pl/7,75399,26702331,czy-armin-laschet-nowy-szef-niemieckiej-cdu-bedzie-wyrozumialy.html.
 Szef MSZ Niemiec proponuje USA Plan Marshalla dla demokracji, Deutsche Welle, January 10, 2021, https://www.dw.com/pl/szef-msz-niemiec-proponuje-usa-plan-marshalla-dla-demokracji/a-56187099.
 Kucharczyk, M., Węgry: Opozycja wystartuje razem w wyborach parlamentarnych. Ma szansę pokonać Viktora Orbána?, EURACTIV.pl, December 21, 2020, https://www.euractiv.pl/section/grupa-wyszehradzka/news/fidesz-wegry-orban-opozycja-wybory-parlamentarne-2022-jobbik/; cf. Górny, G., Fidesz kontra „tęczowa koalicja”. Obozowi Viktora Orbána niespodziewanie wyrósł groźny przeciwnik, wPolityce.pl, January 29, 2021, https://wpolityce.pl/polityka/536126-fidesz-kontra-teczowa-koalicja.
Żurawski vel Grajewski, P. (2021). Trimarium—Omnes viae Europam ducunt, “Trójmorze” 1(2021), pp. 5–26 and idem, Грузія та Україна в Чорноморському партнерстві Тримор’я, “Аналітичний часопис «Чорноморська безпека»”, 1(39), pp. 50–59.
 For an example of such opinion see: Moskwa, W., Jefferson, R., Poland’s Populist Turn, October 31, 2020, https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1IfLSO5PMFUJ:https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/poland+&cd=16&hl=pl&ct=clnk&gl=pl&client=firefox-a
 The term “justified security interests of Russia” was introduced into political debates about the Balkans, Central Europe and sometimes the Middle East by Russian diplomacy in the 1990s. Widely adopted by the West, it was mainly used to oppose the expansion of NATO to the former Soviet satellite states and to shield Milošević’s Russia-allied Serbia from armed intervention by NATO. For a description of the Russian interpretation of the situation see Rumer, E. Russia and the Security of Europe, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2016, p. 56, which includes an endorsement of the Kremlin’s position: ibid., pp. 25 and 42.
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