What changes when there’s a war close by?
Views of Russia, Ukraine and the war are different in Poland, the Baltic States, and also in Finland — given its long border with Russia — than in Western Europe. Commentators examine the impact of the past year on these countries.
Dangerous friend-foe mentality
Russia has already achieved one of its goals, warns historian Valdemaras Klumbys on LRT:
“The environment of war reinforces the mentality of martial law and being under siege. ... It promotes self-centredness, narrow-mindedness and hostility towards others who are not perceived as belonging to ‘us’. ... There is also growing hostility [in Lithuania] towards Western Europe, which yet again does not understand us and is not giving Ukraine and our proposals sufficient support. I would like to remind readers that the fragmentation of European unity has always been one of the Russian leaders’ goals. Consequently, this justified anger could serve the interests of the anti-EU forces in the long run.”
Living in the shadow of war
Gość Niedzielny ponders what this attack on a neighbouring country means for the people of Poland:
“Living in the shadow of war does not just mean facing new challenges and greater economic, social and political difficulties. It means first and foremost a clear awareness that people who have been condemned to death, fear, to fleeing their country or poverty by an aggressor live close to us. It also means living with the uncertainty of what will happen next, and to what extent we will be affected. Yes, this uncertainty is punctuated by hopeful signs, as was the case this week. But these signs are not enough to give us the firm conviction that the evil will soon come to an end. Nor should they dull our sensitivity to the suffering of others.”
The Poles’ new self-confidence
“We are no longer the Poland that stood cap in hand outside the gates of the Euro-Atlantic paradise. ... We are bigger. And we have the right to behave differently. ... To behave as a country with 40 million inhabitants and the sixth biggest economic potential in the EU. As the largest country in the post-socialist region that is now part of the West. As a Nato frontline state. We have the right to formulate our own interests in our own way. Even if these interests do not coincide with those of the other key players. We are flexible towards the US when we need to be, but we stand up to it when it goes too far. The same goes for Germany, France and the EU Commission.”
Finland remains a frontline state
Joining Nato will not alter Finland’s vulnerable position, Helsingin Sanomat points out:
“Finland was slow to notice the competition among the great powers. ... Russia saw a power vacuum in Europe that it wanted to fill. The war of aggression has shaken the Finns’ confidence in Russia and also in their own strengths. Finland’s rapid change of direction in security policy is historic. But even as a Nato member, Finland is and will remain a frontline state. The danger will remain over the coming years.”