One of the sessions of the seminar on Europe celebrated in San Sebastian./ Photo: D. de la Vega.
Alberto Rubio. Madrid.
If the ex-Soviet countries had to choose, in an improbable hypothesis, between continuing in the EU or in NATO, the answer, today, would be unequivocal: they would rather remain in the Atlantic Alliance. The Ukrainian conflict has much to do with this, but there are also other historic reasons that are branded into society in these countries.
For Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians or Ukrainians among many others, NATO represents security before the Russian giant. The EU gives them undoubtable economic and political benefits, but from their point of view without security these mean very little.
More than twenty years after the fall of the Soviet bloc, the Ukrainian crisis has once again awoken the ghosts of the past in countries that were part of the so called Iron Curtain.
During the XXVI Seminar on Europe, organized by the European Journalist’s Association and the University of the País Vasco in San Sebastian, some experts have made clear that, in their opinion, the former Soviet republics consider NATO, and not the European Union, their real safeguard against Russia’s growing power.
Only Ukraine is currently leaning towards the EU (52%) over NATO (37%)
Only in Ukraine’s case does it seem that the population is leaning towards the European Union. According to a survey cited by Ukrainian political scientist, Natalia Shapovalova, 52% of Ukrainians maintain their support for the EU whereas the support for NATO falls to 37%. The FRIDE researcher explains the data in light of the fact that “the EU unites the country where as NATO divides it”.
In any case what becomes clear is that the former satellites of the now extinct USSR do not forget that they were subjected to Moscow’s power for centuries, both by the Tsars and the Soviets, though the memory of the latter is the one that has the greater negative impact on the area: mass deportations, the pogroms or the relocation of whole villages are still very much alive in the collective memory of these countries.
Because of this, once their respective independences had been obtained, in 1991, after the fall of the Berlin wall, the new States opted for the “capacity for dissuasion” that the Alliance offered, over “a Russian nationalism that consists of them wanting to decide everything”, according to the director of the Gazeta Wyborcza, the leading Polish newspaper.