East Central and Southeast Europe: Political and Social Impact One Year After the Start of Russia's War of Aggression against Ukraine

Our Expatriate Staff Report on the Situation in their Countries of Operation.

Russischer Angriffskrieg auf die Ukraine Reuters / Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian troops near the eastern Ukrainian town of Seversk.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, unleashed a year ago, profoundly challenges the European security order. Within NATO and the EU, it was nevertheless possible to find a common line against Russia and for Ukraine very quickly. The past year was marked, among other things, by debates on the form and modalities of support for Ukraine and how to deal with Russia. Here, despite the great Euro-Atlantic unity, there was and still is dissent, which unfolds in particular between East-Central and Southeast European countries on the one hand and Western Europe on the other. In addition, there is the accusation, particularly from East-Central Europe, that the Western Europeans have not listened to the critical voices and warnings about Russia. In the Western Balkans, on the other hand, the war has brought movement into the processes of conflict transformation and EU rapprochement. This series of country reports takes a look at the concrete effects of the Ukrainian war on politics and society in the respective countries and also reports on how the war is being instrumentalized in national political debates.

Reliable Partner of the West and Concerns in the Population

One year after the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, Albania is showing itself to be a reliable partner of Ukraine and the Western community of security and values. The government, opposition and civil society have unanimously condemned the Russian invasion. Within the scope of its possibilities, Albania supported Ukraine with humanitarian aid. 

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Determination and unity

Russia's unprovoked war of aggression on Ukraine has led to great determination and unity in all three Baltic states. For all three states, the war in Ukraine is also a war for their own freedom. Support is therefore enormous, both politically and socially. The countries are aware that freedom has a price. They are united in their support for Ukraine (victory and joining Western organisations) and demand a courageous approach to Russia and its crimes. Far-reaching consequences can be observed in the field of defense, energy and in dealing with their own societies.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Western Balkans State in the Sights of Russian Politics

For years Russian actions of disruption and destabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be observed. The War in Ukraine sheds new light on this interference since it serves also the interest of Republika Srpska´s President Milorad Dodik.

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Reactions in politics and society in Bulgaria

For historical reasons, pro-Russian attitudes are widespread in Bulgaria. In 2022, this found expression in the varied political and public reactions to the massive military offensive launched by the Russian army on February 24, 2022 in Ukraine. After the start of the war, discussions in Bulgaria on sending armaments to Ukraine, providing shelter for tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees and the general clarification of Bulgaria's political position on the events in Ukraine were relevant.

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Kosovar Government is using the Geopolitical Antagonism in the Interest to Move Forward in the Conflict with Serbia

Russia's war against Ukraine has a direct economic impact on the country, while developments in Kosovar-Serbian relations are seen in the context of the war in Ukraine. Kosovo considers itself as part of the western community and is condemning the Russian aggression in Ukraine and applies likewise sanctions to Russia. That position has its origin also in the fact, that Russia is seen as a close ally to Serbia, which is still not recognizing Kosovos independence and backs Serbia on that issue in international organizations.

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Since Russia´s Attack on Ukraine, the Country´s pro-Ukraine Sentiment towards the War has Remained Unchanged.

For Croatians, the war in Ukraine brought back traumas from its own Homeland war of the 1990s and this has ensured a resolute solidarity with the struggle of the Ukrainian people.  However, the war gives room for different interpretation and thus sharpens the internal dispute between government, opposition and president.

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Republic of Moldova
Leaving Moscow's Sphere of Influence: A Tough Battle

The pro-European reform forces won the elections in Moldova in 2020 and 2021. Since then, they have been trying to extricate the country from Moscow's sphere of influence in times of war in Ukraine and thus under the most difficult conditions imaginable. Receiving EU candidate status in June 2022 was a milestone on this path. But Moscow will not let Moldova go without a fight. Even if it does not currently look like a military confrontation, there are many other means for the Russian leadership to torpedo the small country's reform path towards the EU. But the Republic of Moldova is fighting back.

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One Year of the War in Ukraine in Montenegro – Political Tensions and Polarization

Montenegrin society, like the party system, is characterized by polarization and duality in its assessment of the Russian war in Ukraine. Little can be found in the political debate between pro-Ukrainian positions, which are linked to a commitment to NATO membership and EU perspectives, and pro-Russian attitudes.

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North Macedonia
Citizens and Parties Condemn Russian Aggression

North Macedonia since the beginning of the Russian aggression to Ukraine is a loyal ally to its western friends. With one unique exception all major political forces agree on that stance. As NATO member state North Macedonia supports Ukraine with military aid, and applies the sanctions against Russia. However, the state is economically affected by that and the people suffer high inflation rates for basic food and energy. At the same time, the disappointment about the EU and the accession process is increasing and geopolitical players like Turkey, China and partially Serbia are gaining ground. Those developments have to be considered in light of the geopolitical landscape for the future.

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Poland's role in the Ukraine conflict

As a direct neighbor of Ukraine, Poland is directly affected by the consequences of the conflict. Due to its geographical location, Poland sees itself as a front-line state in the immediate vicinity of the conflict and its sovereignty and independence threatened. The country was and is confronted with massive migration movements. There are also fears that the conflict will spread to its own territory. Against this background, Poland has presented itself as one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters in recent months, contributing significant military and humanitarian aid. Internally, the Polish government has further sharpened its own security and defense policy priorities. The article examines Poland's changed positions in Europe as a result of the Ukraine conflict and describes significant domestic political changes.

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From crisis reaction to long-distance running

The Romanian population was - and still is - appalled by the recent Russian attack on Ukraine on 24th of February 2022, which is strongly condemned in its entirety by all Romanian representatives and the vast majority of MPs as well as the population. There are historically rooted strong anti-Russian resentments in Romania, which are currently reflected in the explicit support for Ukraine. The Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR) also strongly and unequivocally condemned the Russian attack from the beginning. But what are the political and social effects of the Ukrainian war on Romania one year after the war began?

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One Year of Ukraine War in Serbia – “Zeitenwende” in Serbian?

In much of the commentary dealing with Serbia's handling of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine over the past 12 months, many Western observers saw the simple continuation of pro-Russian policies. This analysis is too simplistic and does not do justice to the complex situation in Serbia.

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Slovak Republic
A neighbour closely at Ukraine's side

From the first day of the attack on Ukraine, Slovak leaders have unequivocally condemned this act of aggression. Hundreds of thousands of refugees arrived in Slovakia in the first weeks of the war. Overall, Slovak support for Ukraine is one of the highest in international comparison to date. However, Slovakia is facing parliamentary elections in a few months' time. Even a party that questions this aid could win.

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Czech Republic
Czech Republic's clear course in support of Ukraine

Since 24 February, Czechia has taken a highly ambitious course in support of Ukraine and punishing Russia for its new wave of aggression against its neighbour. In many respects, the country outperformed much bigger and (geo-)politically more significant countries in its resolute stance and efficient support in the high peak of the war. This was caused by its mental shift from a more ambivalent position into a fully-fledged eastern flank nation, which has been a typical feature since the beginning of the Petr Fiala cabinet at the end of 2021. 

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Even one year after the Russian invasion, Hungary does not support Ukraine militarily, but only humanitarianly

Already before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, conflicts over the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine strained relations between Hungary and Ukraine. The beginning of the Russian war of aggression coincided with the crucial stage of the Hungarian parliamentary election campaign. Already here, prime minister Orbán positioned himself clearly with the ban on delivering weapons across the Hungarian border to Ukraine and promised in the election campaign to "keep Hungary out of the war". Later, he also repeatedly made it clear that, in his view, Ukraine was not fighting "for us" but for itself.

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Authoritarian Media Offensive in the Midst of War
The Informational Influence of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States in Southeast Europe.

The KAS Media Program Southeast Europe, together with the Institute for Global Analytics and the European Council on Foreign Relations, has published a new publication, "Authoritarians on a Media Offensive in the Midst of War. The Informational Influence of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States in Southeastern Europe."

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Alexander Beribes

Alexander Beribes

Western Balkans / Southeastern Europe


Zarife Gagica

Zarife Gagica KAS

Desk Officer for East Central Europe

zarife.gagica@kas.de +49 30 26996-3871 +49 30 26996-53871
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February 27, 2023
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