The war in Ukraine changed not only relations between Russia and the rest of Europe, but also relations between the member states of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ( NATO).

A new balance is emerging between the States belonging to Western Europe on the one hand and the States of Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and the northern European states (Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden) on the other.

Before the war in Ukraine, the states of Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe were considered, from all points of view, as a “junior partner” within the EU, given the supremacy of the Franco-German couple that shaped and oriented the debates on issues of collective security.

Under French influence, Western Europe was working, both in the EU and in NATO, for the creation of a military strategic autonomy for Europe. This neo-Gaullist orientation of foreign policy had the unacknowledged aim of reducing American influence within NATO and, by extension, in Europe.

However, the war in Ukraine has completely changed the situation. It has rendered this strategic orientation obsolete. The eastern part of the Atlantic Alliance made up of three groupings of states, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, now forms a powerful eastern flank of NATO which considers the United States as the ally most important for the protection of their security as well as for the defense of liberal democracies in Europe.

Today, these states represent the eastern pillar of NATO. It is complementary to the Western pillar of the Alliance, stretching from Germany to Great Britain. The eastern part of NATO perceives the United States as a key ally, capable of balancing the relationship between the two wings (eastern and western) of NATO.

In fact, the United States resumes, under the presidency of Joe Biden, the same role that it exercised during the most acute phase of the Cold War (1947-1962). The commitment of the United States alongside Ukraine and their well-declared desire to watch over the security of the eastern part of NATO put aside the false assumption that they are turning away from Europe by pivoting towards Asia, to contain China, which is considering the annexation of Taiwan by force.

The visit of President Xi Jinping, from March 20 to 22, 2023, to Moscow also sealed the alliance, already in formation for several years, between China and Russia. This new geopolitical reality implies the military presence of the United States in Central and Eastern Europe, essential for both European and Asian security.

Following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the states belonging to the eastern part of NATO have seen that, without the decisive contribution of the United States, the war could have ended in 2022 with the defeat of Ukraine and the erasure of its state in favor of Russia. The strategic axis connecting the eastern pillar of NATO and the United States thus emerged in the aftermath of the Russian aggression, on February 24, 2022, and was put in place during President Biden’s visit to Kyiv and Warsaw, February 21 and 22, 2023.

In the Polish capital, the American president met with the nine heads of state from Central and Eastern Europe, thanking them for their support for Ukraine since the start of Russian aggression. In the wake of this meeting, the states of northern Europe (Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden) decided to further integrate their air forces, by signing in the NATO base at Ramstein, in Germany, a statement to that effect.

These countries have more than 300 fighter aircraft, a considerable force that contributes to NATO’s deterrence and defence. This military cooperation allows Sweden (pending its accession to NATO, currently blocked by Turkey) to prepare its armed forces for integration into the Alliance system.

Among the states of Central and Eastern Europe, two states – Poland and Romania – are on the front line of NATO’s defense. Both states share a long border with Ukraine and have accepted hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees into their territory. A year after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Poland has significantly increased its armed forces. Its military budget for the year 2022 is at 2.4% of its GDP. The objective for 2023 is to reach 4%, well beyond the 2% chosen and desired by the 30 members of NATO. The Polish army has 170,000 soldiers, a size comparable to that of Germany. Poland plans, according to the words of its Defense Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, to increase the number of its army to 300,000 soldiers in the coming years to become the largest army in Europe.

For its part, Romania has an army made up of 70,000 active soldiers, 60,000 members of paramilitary forces and 55,000 reservists. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the country has doubled its investment in the military industry, allocating large sums to the acquisition of military equipment. Bucharest will host a Defense Innovation Accelerator during 2023 to research new technologies that currently affect the military sectors: artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and innovative materials.

In Romania, a major anti-missile shield has been installed by the US military in Deveselu. Similarly, at the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base, located 185 kilometers east of Bucharest, are stationed 2,000 American soldiers. In terms of bilateral collaboration with Poland, during the visit of Polish Minister of Defense Blaszczak to Bucharest in March 2023, the common military cooperation agreements were strengthened.

The war in Ukraine ended 30 years of economic growth and prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe. This growth began after the end of the Cold War in 1989. Going forward, part of the GDP of these countries will be redirected from the civilian economy to the already growing armed forces and military budgets.