Regions and Eastern Europe Regionalism
The Future Of Eastern Europe
The geopolitical conditions that have had such a profound impact on the regional concepts of Central Europe and Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—essentially the political fallout of the Napoleonic era and the two world wars—are now a thing of the past, and some specialists today think that Eastern Europe has outlived its usefulness as a phrase. The expansion of NATO in 1999 to include Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, and in 2004 to include Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia has erased boundaries that appeared fixed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to at least a temporary reconfiguration of relations between the United States and various European NATO members. The traditional Cold War Continental allies, France and Germany, found themselves brushed aside by the United States in favor of Eastern European nations more supportive of American foreign policy.
To put it very simply, Eastern Europe began in the eighteenth century as something defined by contrast with England, France, and, to a lesser extent, the German-speaking territories. It then came to be something defined by its position between these same Western powers, on the one side, and Russia (and subsequently the Soviet Union), on the other. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the expansion of NATO, the Cold War dynamic that made it possible for Eastern Europe to denote "Warsaw Pact Countries plus Yugoslavia but not the Soviet Union" ceased to exist, and the concept lost the small measure of precision that, at least in certain contexts, it had enjoyed for a half century.
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