East European Nations Are Losing Their Identity To The Autocratic West – OpEd


The eastern states of Europe have eluded the “Bear” only to be ensnared by the seductive lure of Europa. And the “Nymph” is intent on keeping them in her grasp.

The “Wall” was torn down 35 years ago; for the sake of Eastern Europe and its future it needs to be reassembled, on its western border.

Eastern Europe has troubles, and while some are internal, a fair measure of them are not. These externals are all driven by powerful political forces seeking to fulfill their own political agendas–and for the latter that’s about control–economic and political.

The attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico may not be an isolated situation. It may be, as some have suggested, a sign of instability in the political regimes of Eastern Europe. This could portend that stable democratic institutions have not been achieved in the region. Moreover, it could further point to the failure of the central focus the West set for itself after the Cold War: to stabilize (meaning democratize) the countries formerly under the influence of the old Soviet state. Dissatisfaction with political decisions should not lead to assassinations of prime ministers, if democratic institutions are stable. In Slovakia, this may not bode well for its future (Pantarhei, “The end of political stability in Europe,” September 21, 2022).

But the Fico incident could also reflect something potentially more sinister at work. And this could be a valid premise especially when external forces in the country want a political regime in power more amenable to the designs of the West.

Certainly, the assassination attempt is not an isolated occurrence endemic to just one region or state; instances like this have happened in more than a few European cities in recent years – from the former balkanized republics of Yugoslavia, Serbia, to northern countries like Sweden and Holland (Reuters, “Killings and attempted assassinations of leaders in Europe,” May 15, 2024). And history evinces how the West is not immune to the dark side of politics. US presidents McKinley, Lincoln and Kennedy all fell to such malevolence, and Reagan barely survived the ordeal. 

But the efforts to subvert the US, tragic as they were, were the product of specific circumstances endemic to domestic politics in the US at the time. They were of little import to the broad sweep of history. If history is our guide, however, an attack on a president or prime minister in Eastern Europe can, and has, led to serious regional, and potentially international, crises. 

But, as has been alluded to, the troubles in these countries are not all internal; they have become a battleground for powerful external forces seeking to exert a measure of control in them. And this occurs because East European countries are not sufficiently stable, historically, to keep in check foreign economic and political influence . They have not yet achieved a critical mass in the experience and expertise required of “nation-state building.” The latter requires acceptance by the vast majority of the populace as to the importance of creating and respecting democratic institutions. For a state, without the latter, protecting itself and its citizens is impossible. The question is: 

Can these countries succeed as democratic nation-states, given the external economic and political forces which plague them?

There is something striking about the reaction to the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Fico. In the European press and other Western centers of power the first comments made were not over local or even regional concerns; rather, they were about history–the history of an empire and the summer of 1914. Western political pundits immediately correlated the incident with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which triggered a series of reciprocal agreements precipitating the outbreak of the First World War. But it could also reveal something deeper, perhaps a signal that Eastern Europe, itself, is viewed from a historical perspective with its roots being grounded within empires (El Pais, “Robert Fico, or the unpredictable consequences of assassinations in Europe,” Guillermo Altares, May 16, 2024).

Perhaps, history is where politicians in the West turned to first, because they know that what happens in these states is not strictly an internal matter. And history illustrates what can happen when foreign elements are at work fomenting unrest. Powerful external forces, as was the case historically, are forever busy. Thus what happens in these states is often beyond their control. Their destiny is often influenced if not controlled or even determined by other more powerful nation-states with their own political agendas. And the latter are about control.

Prime Minister Fico has apparently survived the attack and will hopefully resume his duties as health permits. But resuming his responsibilities could be perilous when foreign elements consider East European states merely a means to further their own global agendas. We are referring in this instance to the United States and its British allies, for whom their concerns with Russia and China take precedence.  Beyond their rather shortsighted Anglocentric view of foreign relations, the worth of each state or region is predicated upon its utility in their aim of global hegemony. Foreign affairs is based on how other countries can be used like pawns in a “chess game” that has little to do with what is in the interest of these politically vulnerable East European countries.

Eastern nations experience a political divide with elitist politicians (as opposed to the balance of the populace) making decisions that affect a country’s future. The problem is that these decisions depend on the devise of a foreign power. And the verbal and written expression of this caprice is manifest through Western media. With the latter always willing to exercise its access to the public to manufacture consent in the minds of the populace. British newspaper, The Guardian, recently labeled on its front page Prime Minister Fico as a “Putin ally,”(The Guardian, “At a stroke, Slovakia could soon become Russia’s newest ally,” John Kampfner, September. 5, 2023).

It should also be noted that, one way or another, finance and economics play major roles in the foreign power dynamics brought to bear on East European countries. The IMF, World Bank and other Western institutions are utilized as instruments to effect economic and, therefore, political decisions to their own advantage. Western actors–individual, corporate and government–are simply buying the loyalty of a sector of the regional elite, which, when it comes to foreign policy, view the wishes of the population as irrelevant. 

With regard to the issue of finance, specifically, there is plenty of hypocrisy, especially from the West.  Georgia’s efforts to adopt its own law on the disclosure of foreign agent funding sources in the country has produced major pushback in the West, even to the point of threats. The law, of course, will make influence peddling through corruption much more difficult for those with money to spread around, and that would be the West (Reuters, “Georgian parliament passes ‘foreign agent’ bill, prompting US anger, new protests,” Felix Light, May 14, 2024).

But all this is only a consequence of the general geopolitical position of East European countries. The great powers of international politics were already established when former provinces or territories of this region became states. Russia, Germany, France and Britain at the beginning of the last century were empires with established political cultures and traditions. And even with the relatively young United States of America, the lack of a long history and traditions was addressed through its Enlightenment Era cultivation of statehood and its relatively secure “insular” position in world politics. Eastern Europe developed with no political culture or significant national tradition of its own. And the tumultuous events of the 20th century further distanced it from achieving any serious progress towards this end. 

In the period after the Second World War little more than “organized” chaos emerged in the region. Great divisiveness prevailed wherein many supporters of the Third Reich or former government officials fled to the West and actually engaged in subversive activities from abroad. From the era of Stalin until the “Wall” came down, Eastern Europe had no democratic institutions developed or processes created to perpetuate them. 

Any feelings giving rise to elation or hope surrounding the post-1989 period healed neither old wounds nor political divisiveness.  They merely brought to power individuals who were thoroughly disenchanted (or disgusted) with the old communist regimes. The countries of Eastern Europe, therefore, experienced being psychologically transported from one sphere of influence to another, but without any meaningful change for them internally. These states remained the same incomplete and somewhat dependent countries they had been for decades. Since then they have only become more pronounced in their dependency on elements who promise prosperity and security but have delivered little of either.

One can readily appreciate how, given the history of the East, the politics of leaders like a Robert Fico or a Viktor Orban are a major challenge (if not enemy) not only to external control from Washington or London, but to the whole pattern of political life in the region. Leaders with nationalistic hearts, such as these,  are not just important for Eastern Europe, they are an imperative–even if they are historically an anomaly. East European nations are at a turning point in their history. Either stay with the status quo of history or reclaim their identity. To do the former is easy. But to do the latter they must rely on being the courageous people they have always been and rid themselves of their historical dependency on others. George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Salvation…what price salvation?” The East Europeans have a choice to make about their identity and who they are:

Master of their own consciousness 
or slave to another’s 

F. Andrew Wolf, Jr.

F. Andrew Wolf, Jr. is a retired USAF Lt. Col. and retired university professor of the Humanities, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy. His education includes a PhD in philosophy from Univ. of Wales, two masters degrees (MTh-Texas Christian Univ.), (MA-Univ. South Africa) and an abiding passion for what is in America's best interest.

One thought on “East European Nations Are Losing Their Identity To The Autocratic West – OpEd

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *