“If the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Europe does not have a solid foundation for a security alliance. Two days before the Dutch went to the polls to reject an Association Agreement with Ukraine, Gallop published a study surveying public opinion across Eastern Europe.
The survey was based on 1,000 people sample populations through face-to-face interviews. The bottom line question was simple: who threatens the nation?
The survey was conducted in July 2015. The political context at the time was very different. But the result is nonetheless relevant.
A new Gallop poll suggests that perceptions of threat to security are very different in Europe, presenting an unstable foundation for a common defence and security policy.
Among the Baltic States, Russia is considered the biggest threat to national security: for Estonia that covers 58% of spontaneous responses, 46% in Lithuania, and 42% in Latvia.
Central Eastern Europe
Among the Visegrad four, the differences are sharp. Poland could be clustered with the Baltic States, as 69% of public opinion regards Russia as the biggest threat to its national security. But, only 17% of Slovaks, 15% of Czechs, and 14% of Hungarians consider Russia a threat to their national security.
In Southeastern Europe, the Euro-Atlantic worldview is in quicksand.
Romania has Baltic levels of fear of Russia, with 57% considering Moscow public enemy number one. But, that is highly unusual in that part of Europe.
Actually, 14% of Bulgarians fear the United States more than they fear Russia. Because of the 1999 NATO bombing, 24% of Serbs fear the US more than Russia.
64% of Kosovars, 26% of Albanians, and 11% of Croatians consider Serbia as national enemy number one. In turn, 15% of Montenegrins consider their biggest enemy to be Albania.
14% of the citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia consider their biggest enemy to be Greece.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is split. 10% of the citizens think their biggest enemy is Serbia; but there is another 10% that thinks their biggest enemy is the United States.
39% of Greeks consider their national enemy number one to be Germany, which is probably a reaction to the prevalent notion of Germany championing policies of austerity. Of course, the conclusion adds to a climate of Euroscepticism that is not unknown or unique in Europe. It should be taken into account that the poll took place in July 2015, amidst negotiations of the first Syriza administration in Brussels, with the prevalent thinking at the time that Germany was championing the Greek expulsion from the Eurozone.
The six members of the Eastern Partnership can be roughly divided into three clusters.
Belarus considers the biggest enemy of the nation to be the United States.
Azerbaijan and Armenia fear each other.
Georgia and Ukraine fear Russia, by 52% and 48% respectively. Moldova also considers Russia to be the biggest threat to its national security, but only by 16%.
Although not a country, even in July 2015 the Islamic State group was seen as a very significant threat to national security: 15% of Albanians, 8% of Czechs, 6% of Bulgarians, and 5% of Moldovans sited ISIS as a significant threat.
In the early 1990s until the mid-2000s was a project without an alternative; there was no contesting narrative. I am afraid that the crisis has triggered a dangerous calculation in which the logic of “the enemy of my enemy” is the main underlying rationale. Europe is not being argued as a positive value, in which theoretically “the other” can buy into. Europe is referred to primarily as an alliance.
If Europe is seen as a super-identity that encompasses, or assimilates, or eradicates national identity, then it is a project doomed to failure. For 50 years, Europe was something “other” than the nation. Nations are mostly narratives founded on a prime-other. Europe cannot be such a project. If it is, polls suggest, it does not stand a chance.