A prosperous Ukraine is in everybody´s interest
Eighteen think tanks, varying from the Carnegie Endowment in Washington to the Mongolian Institute for Strategic Studies, made a study of current threat perceptions in their countries. As reported in Diplomat Magazine on February 2, 2014 the report on the Netherlands was prepared by Clingendael. To read this report, please click here. The full Dutch report (in English) and a summary in Dutch can be found here.
Internal problems greater threat than external
Now all the country reports have been analysed and combined in a joint report. It was presented to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on April 29 2014. The most surprising outcome is that in most countries domestic and transnational problems are considered to be a far larger threat than any external threat.
These problems differ from country to country, but economic problems and growing gaps between rich and poor citizens are widely considered to be worrisome and almost every country mentioned serious concerns about the ability of governments to address today´s main problems.
Corruption is mentioned as a major problem in inter alia Albania, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine. Doubts about the capability of national government to cope with challenges in a coherent manner were expressed inter alia in the US and the Netherlands.
Greece and Georgia
The only two governments that rank external threats higher than domestic and transnational problems are Greece and Georgia because of the perceived threat from Turkey respectively Russia. However, also in Greece almost all security professionals that were interviewed expressed their concern about growing unemployment and poverty.
Most of the research for the national reports was done in December 2013 and January 2014, so before the Ukrainian crisis. It is very likely that the current crisis will have changed the threats perceptions in countries bordering Russia.
However, the outcome of some additional research is that in most countries even now, domestic and transnational challenges are considered to be larger threats than external threats, such as a possible Russian invasion to support Russians living abroad.
A weak or a strong neighbour
What conclusions can be drawn from these seemingly contradictory trends?
First of all we should admit that Europe has changed less than we might have hoped. We are still confronted with the same two schools of thought that forty years ago were so cleverly combined in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE): the traditional security school that says: “the weaker my neighbour, the better I´m off” and the transnational cooperation school that says: “the stronger my neighbour, the better I´m off”.
The current Russian government seems to belong to the traditional security school and to feel most comfortable when it is surrounded by weak neighbours. However, our project makes clear that in all OSCE countries the cooperation school is becoming more influential. According to this school a democratic and prosperous Ukraine with a competent, non-corrupt government is in the best interest of both its Eastern and its Western neighbours.