Konferenz: 100 Jahre Woodrow Wilson und die Ukraine 

Am 6. Februar 1924 verstarb US-Präsident Woodrow Wilson, seine Entscheidungen haben bis heute auch großen Einfluss unter anderem auf die Ukraine. Aus diesem Anlass lud auf Initiative des Historikers Dr. Kurt Bednar das Institut für Osteuropäische Geschichte an der Universität Wien am 21. Februar 2024 zu einer Konferenz.  

Nach der Begrüßung durch Institutsvorstand Univ. Prof. Dr. Christoph Augustynowicz, sowie Baron Lobstein Political-Economic Counselor der US-Botschaft, gab Bednar eine Einführung in den historisch-persönlichen Hintergrund zu Wilson. Univ. Prof. Dr. Kerstin-Susanne Jobst sprach über die Staatsgründung der Ukraine durch Brest-Litowsk im Frühjahr 1918, gefolgt von der Rolle der Ukraine auf der Pariser Friedenskonferenz 1919, vorgetragen durch Prof. Augustynowicz.  

Über die aktuelle Situation der Ukraine sprach IDM Direktor Sebastian Schäffer, der neben der militärischen Lage auch seine Erfahrungen aus dem zwei Tage zuvor in Berlin stattgefundenen Cafe Kyiv zusammenfasste. Mit dem “Dilemma der Gleichzeitigkeit 2.0” beschreibt Schäffer – in Anlehnung an den Anfang der 1990er Jahre durch Claus Offe geprägten Begriff für die parallel laufenden Transformationsprozesse nach dem Zerfall der Sowjetunion – die aktuelle Herausforderung für die EU sowohl Erweiterung, als auch Vertiefung wieder zusammenzuführen und voranzutreiben, ebenso aber auch endlich das Versprechen einer geopolitischen Union zu Erfüllen.  

Zum Abschluss sprach der Journalist Stefan Schocher, der auch seine persönlichen Eindrücke aus der Ukraine schilderte.  


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Vor 100 Jahren in der Zukunft

IDM Director Sebastian Schäffer at Cafe Kyiv in Berlin

On 19 February, shortly before entering the third year of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, the second edition of Cafe Kyiv was organised by the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Berlin. Already in 2023, the historic Cafe Moskau in the Eastern part of the German capital city was renamed to Cafe Kyiv for a day. Something that could become permanent, whcih was mentioned by the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany during the opening to the Mayor of Berlin, who was also present. This time the location was the even more historic Colosseum, a cinema located in Prenzlauer Berg. Around 5000 visitors participated in political discussions, contributed to charity at a pop-up market, engaged in workshops, watched films, and enjoyed fashion, art as well as Ukrainian cuisine. More than 100 partners implemented 120 program items on 10 stages – all named after Ukrainian cities. IDM Director Sebastian Schäffer was among the 260 speakers. On the Odesa stage, he presented his edited book “Ukraine in Central and Eastern Europe” but also talked about “Dilemma of Simultaneity 2.0: Ukraine’s Integration and the EU’s Future”. The panel titled “Can Ukraine Resist the Russian Assault? Answers from New Studies of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs” was organised by the publisher ibidem and moderated by IDM IC Member Andreas Umland. While on stage – located in the hallway of the cinema next to the stairs on the second floor – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a surprise visit. The whole day was packed with interesting exchanges on ond off the stages transporting the overall motto, the famous saying of the first German Federal Chancellor and namesake of the organising foundation: “Wir wählen die Freiheit (We choose freedom)”. 

Photo credit: Sebastian Schäffer/Christian Schön 


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IDM Short Insights 32: Dilemma of simultaneity 2.0

Milliarden für die Ukraine: EU-Gipfel in Brüssel

Die Historikerin Daniela Apaydin vom Institut für den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa (IDM) beurteilt die Erwartungen an den EU-Sondergipfel an diesem Donnerstag in Brüssel. Dabei geht es um die Frage: „Wie geht es weiter mit der EU-Unterstützung für die Ukraine?“

Sehen Sie sich das Interview hier an.

Maintaining a Conflict: Putin’s Shadow Hand in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Crisis

On 4 March 2022, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg warned that Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth Bosnia) are the next countries vulnerable to Russia’s malign actions, following the war in Ukraine. Why Bosnia? What are Russia’s interests in Bosnia?  

Bosnia was the first country in Europe to undergo genocide genocide since the Second World War, which is why the slightest crises in the country bring back memories of bloody conflict. In addition, the perpetrators of the genocide are portrayed as heroes heroes or publicly endorsed. Most of Bosnia’s unresolved problems are not caused by Russia, but are exploited by Russia for geopolitical interests in the Balkans and beyond.  

Bosnia’s political architecture is extremely complex. All three main entities have uncompromising political desires: the Serbians are looking for independence, the Bosniaks are seeking a further centralization, and the Croats want to create a third entity. While the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 ended the bloody civil war that caused over 100,000 casualties, it left the country ungovernable and dysfunctional, frequently described as an ethnocracy. With two entities, three presidents in rotation (one Croat-Catholic, one Serbian-Orthodox and one Bosniak Muslim), 14 governments, 165 ministers, and dozens of hundreds of local authorities, there are too many conflicting interests to form a coherent political framework.  

Russia’s staunchest ally in Bosnia and Europe is the president of Republika Srpska, hardline nationalist Milorad Dodik. In his opinion, Bosnia is an artificial state. Since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine in February 2022, Dodik is one of the few European leaders to have visited Moscow for a private audience with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, and to have endorsed Russia’s sham referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine. In January 2023, Dodik awarded Putin with the highest medal of honour. Due to his destabilizing actions, Dodik and the entire leadership of Republika Srpska were subject to sanctions and put on a blacklist by the USA.  

Dodik shares many of the same ideologies as Putin: they both oppose NATO-expansion and what they call “West degenerative ideology” such as liberalism and LGBTQ rights, while favouring extreme nationalism and an autocratic style of governing. Putin is not the only authoritarian ally of Dodik, he has also built up good relations with Hungary’s Viktor Orban 

Because of Dodik’s veto, Bosnia is the only European country other than neighbouring Serbia not to have placed sanctions on Russia. To Putin, Bosnia is irrelevant, merely a playground to undermine NATO and the EU and to create further trouble and disruption for them. Russia was one of the Dayton signatories and even deployed troops on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia in the mid-1990s, but since Putin became president, Russian relations with the West have deteriorated. One of their favourite channels for expanding Russian influence is the UN’s veto power. The EU and the USA have played their card with have played their card with the High Representative for Bosnia, currently held by the former German Minister of Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, who has the final word on all matters. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Putin’s famous speech in Munich in 2007, Russia supported Republika Srpska’s secession agenda, questioned Bosnia’s sovereignty, regarded the Hague Tribunal as illegitimate and vetoed the recognition of Srebrenica as genocide. At the UN Security Council on 11 May 2022, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya referred to Schmidt as an illegal High Representative, thereby playing the Dodik card.  

Although Russia is the main spoiler in the Bosnian crisis, it has hardly exerted any economic or financial leverage. The EU is Bosnia’s main trading partner, Russia accounted for only 0.3% of exports and 1.6% of imports in 2022. For direct investment, Moscow ranked 9th out of the top 10 investors in Bosnia, accounting for less than 3% of total investment. Moscow’s ability to play a role in a country with virtually no economic tools is remarkable. Yet this is due to Moscow’s willingness to work with anyone without trying to change its actions or ideology. More recently, Russia has employed entities such as the Night Wolves, who were involved in the 2014 Crimea secession, and were reported to be present in Bosnia. In 2018, it was reported that Russian mercenaries were training paramilitary forces in Bosnia on behalf of Dodik, and in 2022 it was suspected that the Wagner Group had established a recruiting office in Balkan.  

With the USA debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and EU attention diverted by multiple internal crises, Dodik seized the moment in December 2021 to take a further step towards his desire to secede from Bosnia by unilaterally withdrawing Republika Srpska from the tax, defence, health and judicial systems. Every action of secession that Dodik takes is vetoed by the High Representative, the only person able to stop Dodik’s path to secession.   

Lacking the funds to back the secession of Banja Luka, Russia has exploited every alternative to maintain the crisis in Bosnia at no cost, and it appears to be continuing this trend. Russia has managed to maintain a dysfunctional state in the middle of Europe with minimal capital investment. In holding Bosnia in a permanent crisis, Putin’s main aim is to demonstrate the weakness and unreliability of the USA and the EU in preserving peace and stability in its own backyard. Putin is trying to position Russia as rule-maker rather than rule-follower and sees opportunity whenever a crisis occurs; in the case of Bosnia, he is a rule-breaker. Nonetheless, it was not Putin who triggered the dysfunction, corruption or democratic backsliding in the first place.  

The Russian aggression in Ukraine, along with Russia’s malicious actions of interfering in the local and national elections of Western democracy, as well as using the internet for a misinformation campaign to provoke further division, have made the US and the EU better understand Russian agendas and tactics. If the EU pays more attention to the Bosnian crisis, it could close the Russian channels of interference. However, this depends entirely on the general outcome of the war in Ukraine and further enlargement of the EU in the so-called Western Balkans. Although Russia is far from challenging the EU directly, it is pursuing a realistic and opportunistic scheme to undermine the EU via the weakest members or, in the Bosnian case, via the accession candidates. One of the ways to stop Russia meddling in Bosnian affairs is further integration into the EU, as well as a clear path towards full membership.  


Rigels Lenja is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Eastern and Southeastern European History at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. 

Poland after Elections: Malwina Talik at the Discussion of the IIP (Vienna)

International Institute for Peace (Vienna) organized a panel discussion about the outcomes of the parliamentary in Poland and their impact on the regional, especially its relations with Ukraine and Belarus.

Our colleague Malwina Talik was among the speakers together with Maciej Kisilowski, Associate Professor of Law and Strategy, Central European University, Artyom Shraibman, Belarusian Political Analyst; Contributor to Carnegie Politika and Olena Khylko, Researcher at the Comenius University in Bratislava. The event was moderated by Marylia Hushcha, Researcher at the IIP.

More information here.

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Malwina Talik attended Warsaw Security Forum 2023

Our colleague Malwina Talik was invited to attend the 10th Warsaw Security Forum (WSF), which took place on 3-4 October in Poland.

The WSF defines itself as one of the leading European security conferences on transatlantic cooperation with an emphasis on the security of Central and Eastern Europe. It “gathers annually over 1500 highest representatives of governments, international organizations, industry, think tanks and civil society coming from over 90 countries.”

The 2023 edition prioritized the issues of the Russian war in Ukraine, democratic resilience, as well as energy security and climate.

More information here.

What will Ukraine’s membership of the European Union change? – German expert Explains

The European Union is expected to begin discussions with Ukraine regarding its future EU membership. However, Ukraine must first fulfill seven conditions set by the Commission, including judicial reforms and the fight against corruption.

Read the whole article with Sebastian Schäffer for ED News here.

Russo-Ukrainian war, EU influence in Eastern Europe – Director of IDM, DRC Sebastian Schäffer

In a recent interview for STM TV, Sebastian Schäffer, the Director of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM), commented on the Russo-Ukrainian war and the European Union’s influence in Eastern Europe, highlighting the complexities of the ongoing conflict.

To watch the full interview, click here.

Kann die Schweiz neutral bleiben?

Der Krieg gegen die Ukraine löst auch in der Schweiz eine Neutralitätsdebatte aus. Eine Änderung ist nicht in Sicht.

Unser Kollege Péter Techet über die Nachbarländer Österreichs:

Die Presse

IDM visiting fellow prof. Ulrich Schneckener in the Slovak media

Prof. Ulrich Schneckener, IDM visiting fellow has been interviewed by Dennik N, a Slovak daily newspaper. 

In the interview he has emphasized that the annexation of Crimea in 2014 did not change much in the German-Russian relations as Germany believed that security in Europe was not possible without Russia. Prof. Schneckener pointed out that Germany forgot that Putin used gas as a weapon as was the case of Eastern European countries, especially in the case of Ukraine. Ironically after the annexation of Crimea Germany’s dependence on Russian gas even increased and part of Germany’s energy infrastructure was sold to Russian firms.