The Bucharest 9 (B9), a group composed of NATO’s easternmost members, has quickly earned clout as the voice of states whose security is the most undermined by the increasingly provocative Russian rhetoric and force posture and of the region that has become the focus of the Alliance’s response to this threat. Indeed, the potential of the B9 to shape the NATO agenda is significant, not least because most of its countries present a rigid commitment to common defence by taking on an increased burden in NATO by increasing defence expenditures and investing in new capabilities. Yet, the B9 also faces limits to its effectiveness because of its participating states’ differing threat perceptions, uneven commitments to beefing-up national defence capabilities, and the potential volatility of their respective military modernisation and transformation plans. More cooperation within the B9 framework, both political and military, could alleviate these problems and help make it the real voice of the Eastern Flank.
Marcin Terlikowski, with Veronika Jóźwiak, Łukasz Ogrodnik, Jakub Pieńkowski, and Kinga Raś
Russia’s annexation of Crimea triggered a shift in NATO’s policy towards Georgia. NATO moved from mainly political support for Georgia’s NATO membership aspirations to enhanced practical military cooperation. Although it might be more difficult for Russia to coerce its small neighbour, the lack of visible progress on the path to NATO membership may weaken Georgian morale and lead to a reversal of democratic gains. Hence, it is important that during the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels the Allies offer additional support to help Georgia increase its resilience.
Austria’s government has declared it will be a bridge-builder in the European Union between its western and eastern members. This is in fact rather more an endorsement of the Union cohesion on the eve of Austria’s presidency of the EU Council than a genuine offer to represent the Visegrad states’ interests in the EU. Vienna is also trying to strengthen its position in Central Europe using regional cooperation initiatives such as the Slavkov Triangle, Three Seas Initiative, and the V4+ format. However, Austria’s pro-Russia stances and economic conflicts of interest have burdened relations with regional partners. Common goals remain limited but include the development of transport infrastructure, an endorsement of the European integration of the Western Balkans and strengthening the EU’s external borders.
In his first term, Chinese leader Xi Jinping abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s foreign policy dictum of “keeping a low profile”. But China’s activism in the middle of Xi’s first term was still more reactive than creative. However, in the last two years a new phase of diplomacy has emerged, in which all actions are subordinated to China’s unchanging strategic foreign policy goal of regaining its superpower status. This means that China strives to enforce change in the global system, which is dominated by the West. The PRC is already trying to introduce new standards for international relations and promotes its values and principles more aggressively worldwide. There are already examples that Xi is effectively implementing his ideas.