Pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian? Eastern European states react differently to the Ukraine conflict.
Poland and Hungary are both EU and NATO members, and both countries have a troubled past with the Soviet Union, Russia’s predecessor state. However, their positions on the Ukraine conflict differ.
Poland has always been anti-Russian and seeks proximity to the West. "When the cold eastern wind whistles through Warsaw’s streets here, people say: everything bad comes from the east," knows SRF Eastern Europe correspondent Sarah Nowotny. One should not speak of Eastern Europe with Poles, but one should speak of Central Europe, he says.
Polish government clearly reacts to Russian aggression towards Ukraine. The Eastern Europe correspondent sees one reason in the fact that Poland sees Ukraine as a security wall between itself and Russia. "Many people are afraid that if this wall falls, Poland will be next."
The country was under Russian rule for the longest time, albeit partially. We are not only talking about the Soviet Union. "Poland was divided for more than 120 years and part of the country was under Russian rule by the tsar."
Poland now wants to conclude a security pact with Ukraine and also with Great Britain. Sarah Nowotny, however, classifies the attempt as PR, among other things. Because such a pact would protect neither Poland, nor Ukraine. But the pact could also be an attempt by Polish diplomacy to play a role internationally again.
Today, Polish diplomacy is internationally meaningless, he said. "The Polish government argues so much with the European Union."When Putin targeted eastern Ukraine, it was different, Nowotny says. "At that time, Poland played an important role and tried to mediate together with Germany and France."
A divided Hungary
Hungary, on the other hand, is much more ambivalent. "The head of the government, Viktor Orban, tried to bring money into the country from all directions. For example, in the case of the Hungarian nuclear power plant that Orban wants to expand, he is counting on Russia as an investor and financier," Nowotny said.
More than ten years ago, Hungary was in a bad economic situation, the country was in debt. At that time, it made sense not to rely only on European countries as partners. Today, however, things look different. "Hungary deals first and foremost with Europe and not with Russia. Therefore, the assumption that it is mainly about good business for those who are already doing well anyway," Nowotny said.
The correspondent sees one reason for Hungary’s change of strategy in the Russian international investment bank. The latter now has its headquarters in Budapest. "The bank finances major projects in the country, but does not play a big role in the Hungarian economy. Conversely, however, the Russians who work there receive diplomatic privileges."
However, Orban is not clearly on Putin’s side. The restraint towards Ukraine also stems from personal conflicts: "Hungary says that Ukraine treats the Hungarian minority in the country badly, pestering them, not letting them live out their rights." This is another reason why Orban is very reserved in the Ukraine conflict.
Dealing with the conflict by other countries
Russia traditionally sees Eastern Europe as its sphere of influence. Recently, however, a certain turning away from Russia and a turning towards the West has been observed in the larger Eastern European countries, says Sarah Nowotny.
This can be seen in the example of the Czech Republic and Romania, said the correspondent in Warsaw. "The Russians were in the running there for a long time for the expansion of nuclear power plants. Now you don’t want Russia there. You rely on Western technology and no longer on Russia."