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ZEI Discussion Paper C 239/2017

Michael Gehler: Revolutionäre Ereignisse und geoökonomischstrategische Ergebnisse: Die EU- und NATO-„Osterweiterungen“ 1989-2015 im Vergleich

ZEI Discussion Paper C 239/2017

Michael Gorbachev’s policy of reforms (1985-1989), the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe (1989), and the breakdown of the Soviet Union (1991) opened the door and paved the way for the Eastern enlargement of both the EU and NATO. Both of these were the result of geoeconomic and geostrategical decision-making from 1999 to 2007. These enlargements did not occur simultaneously, but rather with a time lag due to the fact that the EU enlargement, which came later, was more complex, costly, and time-consuming with regard to negotiations than was NATO’s Eastern enlargement. The Baltic States as well as the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe desired the Eastern enlargement of both the EU and NATO. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were the first to be integrated. The Eastern enlargement of the EU was more or less accepted by Russia, while it at first observed skeptically and ultimately opposed that of NATO. It was not by accident that on the part of the USA and the Federal Republic of Germany, nothing legally binding was offered toward Russia, but as early as 1990, oral assurances and statements of confidence were made to it with regard to not expanding NATO any further to the East. The Eastern enlargement of the EU constituted an historic opportunity for Brussels to expand the acquis communautaire as well as its trade and the Single Market all the way to the Baltics in the north and to the Black Sea in the south. This was also closely connected with a medium-term and long-term perspective integrating the “Western Balkans”. Decision-making in favor of the EU and NATO by all of those states and regions was seen by Russia as a concept of the Western conqueror as well as a geopolitical and geostrategical disadvantage concerning its own position. In light of the demonstration of military strength and the renaissance of classic hard power policy made by Russia when beginning measures of destabilization in the eastern areas of Ukraine and then occupying and annexing Crimea, the Eastern enlargement of NATO appeared to be justified and necessary by the new members of the transatlantic alliance. In spite of Western security policy, Russian countermeasures could be taken for granted, causing the continuous potential for conflicts and threats of war in these areas of Europe. Therefore, the question may be raised as to whether there had been missed opportunities before for avoiding these aggressions by binding Russia closer to the EU earlier on.

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