Russian Advances in Central Eastern Europe

Helle Dale /

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw (Radek) Sikorski was probably being polite when he described, in a conference call on Friday with U.S. policy experts, the U.S. government as “a friend of the Eastern Partnership” initiative, a Polish-Swedish venture within the EU, which covers Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the three countries of the Caucasus.

The disparity between the U.S. and EU in terms of economic resources dedicated to Eastern Europe is overwhelming. While the EU spends billions on supporting this partnership, the United States spends a grand total of $311 million annually on democracy and civil society programs in all six countries. That is not a whole lot, given that these nations all have strategic importance for the United States and all teeter on the edge between democracy and authoritarianism; between western influence and Russian pull. When queried about the paucity of the U.S. outreach, Sikorski equally politely commented that in these countries, “a little money goes a long way.”

The problem here is not the lack of funding per se, but the lack of engagement and strategic myopia—or worse—that it indicates on the part of the U.S. government. It is unfortunately the case that the United States, for a variety of reasons, is allowing relationships with countries in Central and Eastern Europe to deteriorate or atrophy as the U.S. leadership focuses on a other issues, like disengagement from Iraq and Afghanistan, global climate change, international development aid, and the Middle East peace process. (more…)