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Christine Stone

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After Ukraine: Are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary Veering Off The NATO/EU Reservation?

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Despite the firmness shown by the EU’sbiggest players when it comes to sanctioning Putin’s Russia, lower down the pecking order some member states are not happy. Unlike the most craven and obedient puppets — the Baltic States and Poland — it took some arm twisting to get the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to agree to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea. Each country is dependent for much of its energy on Russia with which there are also valued economic ties. Why rock the boat? Despite hyperbole claiming that Vladimir Putin was intent on taking them over and rebuilding the iron curtain, in reality, Russia has been an unproblematic neighbour for a quarter of a century.

Could these ripples of discontent with the famed Washington consensus develop into something more troubling for both the  US and Brussels? What can they do about it? All three countries are members of both NATO and the EU. Promoting regime change inside the Euro-Atlantic tentsurely becomes more problematic. Or, does it? Let us examine each case separately and see what the auguries bode.
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Don't Cry For Me, Shevardnadze...

When Eduard Shevardnadze died on 7th July the tectonic plates barely moved in the international media. That evening, the anchor on the BBC News 24 network fumbled with his notes — and, obviously his memory — to say something of interest. In the end it all boiled down to Shevardnadze’s role in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union. And that is where the obituaries have remained stuck — in the world of the happy ending brought about in 1991 by Gorbachev and his foreign minister.

Shevardnadze’s  eleven years in power as president of Georgia is barely mentioned, apart from his overthrow in November 2003 during the inappropriately named  ‘rose revolution’. After that ‘Shevy’, (as he was known, if not entirely affectionately) disappeared into the shadows. Over the past ten years he gave a few interviews but so far, there have been no new memoirs nor any sign of an official biography. For someone who is meant to have changed the course of history, his passing has — to say the least — been underwhelming.
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Ukraine: Europe’s Partner or Puppet?

As the second most populous former Soviet republic, Ukraine has seemed uncomfortable with its independence since 1991 and less than committed to making it work. The fundamental issue has always been, does the country remain entwined with its larger neighbour Russia, or does it succumb to the blandishments of the West and distance itself completely from a country with which it was co-joined for over 1000 years?

Within the USSR Ukraine was an economic power house with a large heavy industrial sector and flourishing agriculture based on its excellent ‘black soil’. To Western eyes, the typical Ukrainian was Nikita Khrushchev -- a plump, jolly fellow; a bit crude, perhaps, but a good, stolid Soviet citizen. When Gorbachev arranged a referendum on preserving a reformed Soviet Union in March 1991, 76 percent of voters in Ukraine supported remaining in the USSR. Yet only eight months later 90 percent of them voted for independence. Some might say, how capricious! Could things have changed so quickly? They obviously did, meaning that the Communist apparatchiki jumped the sinking ship and the sheep followed.
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