After the war between Russia and Georgia general anti-Russian sentiments are likely to rise and companies with Russian interests and future Russian investments will face public relations problems in the CEE region. Poland and the Czech Republic are expected to strengthen links to the US and increase the distance from Russia, but Hungary and Slovakia will follow a more cautious course. The European Union will remain paralyzed about how to handle Russia, thus giving the latter the chance to expand its influence in the region.
The Russian invasion against Georgia had very clear “messages” for the CEE countries. There are general consequences that apply to all nations in the region, but these countries will embark on different strategies with Moscow in the future.
The future of the Nabucco-project questioned
Though the Russian military mostly avoided targeting foreign-owned oil and gas transportation facilities in Georgia, one of the aims of the Russian invasion has become clear. Namely, any oil or gas supply plan that bypasses Russia is risky. In the last years Russian diplomacy has tried to cut the Nabucco project from potential oil and gas resources by cementing long term contracts with oil producing countries in the region. After the war against Georgia not only the raw material resources are at peril, but Russia made it clear that it had the capacity and political will to destroy the planned transportation facilities, too. It will push the CEE countries towards rethinking their long-term energy strategies and the prospects of the Nabucco project have become vaguer than ever. Nevertheless Russia can claim only partial victory, and strategists in Moscow might have miscalculated the consequences of the war. As almost all CEE nations have their “Soviet invasion” memories from the past, these countries will now be keener on searching for new energy independence strategies. Thus if the Nabucco project is dead, it does not mean that Russian energy dominance in the region is secured for good.
Russian and US “race for influence” in the CEE region will fasten
As in the past, the European Union will be paralyzed about how to handle the new Russia. The lack of consensus on EU foreign policy, the dependence on Russian gas and growing business interests of EU companies in Russia will open the gates to Russian and US diplomatic expansion. The two countries will pursuit the “race for influence” in the region, while “Old Europe” will loose grounds gradually unless the EU manages to formulate a common foreign policy strategy towards Russia.
Political tensions will rise between Russia and the Czech Republic, and between Russia and Poland, but Slovakia and Hungary will remain very cautious.
- The Russian Defence Ministry announced that the Czech Republic had been the largest supplier of tanks, self-propelled guns and artillery to Georgia in the past two years. Moscow accused Georgian troops of having massacred the inhabitants of Tchinvali with these tanks and missile launchers. The relationship between the two countries has already been cold in the last few months (Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country was “extremely upset” by the Czech-American anti-missile defence agreement). Russian Defence Ministry‘s statement and the fact that oil transport to the Czech Republic through the Druzhba pipeline fell below the normal level again indicate that Moscow’s policy toward Prague will get more offensive. It naturally will bring the Czech Republic closer to the US.
- According to Polish PM Donald Tusk the conflict may help Poland and the US to reach a deal on deploying the US anti-missile system. Thus it is very likely that the US will reach agreement with both countries sooner than expected and public opposition against the missile defence will diminish.
Projected short and middle term political strategies of CEE countries
Background: Diplomatic statements on the conflict