Svitlana Zub

PhD. Student, 

Department of international studios and public communications,

Faculty of International Politics, Management and Business

State University "Uzhhorod National University",

Leading specialist of the Education and Research Institute 

of European integration studies of the SU "UzhNU"

Uzhgorod, Ukraine


  Abstract. The article deals with interrelated and partly overlapping factors which structurally set Poland apart from the other three countries and effectively prevent the Visegrad Group from being transformed into an actual politico-military alliance.

  Keywords: the Visegrad Group, actual politico-military alliance, geopolitics, sociopolitical system.


  The first factor is the different geographic exposure. Geographic location remains a powerful factor in determining real and perceived threats to national security. Poland shares 210 kilometres of border with Russia and 418 kilometres with Belarus, Moscow’s military ally. Furthermore Poland is located in direct proximity to Kaliningrad, a strategically important outpost for the Russian Federation [4]. There are also few natural obstacles providing protection against potential land-based threats from the east.

  The rest of Visegrad enjoys a much more favorable geographic location. CHS are insulated from Moscow-controlled areas by a buffer zone consisting of Poland, Ukraine, and Romania. Furthermore the arc of the Carpathian Mountains provides a great natural obstacle. If seen from a geographical perspective Austria fits well with the CHS, making the S4 a more cohesive entity in this respect.

  Next factor is the significant gap in military capabilities. Analysis of military capabilities can be seen as an extension of the argument discussed above. If one assumes that the ability to deal with hard security challenges is critical for becoming a viable geopolitical actor, the disparity of potential becomes even more of a problem.

  In absolute terms Poland contributes 72 per cent of Visegrad’s total military expenditure, with Czech Republic’s 14 per cent representing a very distant second. The differential is also substantial in relative terms. Warsaw allocates almost two per cent of its GDP to national defence, while for the rest of Visegrad the number is closer to one per cent. The discrepancy translates not only into a gap in actual capabilities but also signifies a structural difference in perceived utility of military factors in national security strategies. In this context Austria, with its GDP military spending below one per cent, comes much more in-line with the CHS philosophy.

  The third important factor is the differential of national potentials. The V4 is relatively unbalanced in terms of national contributions to the overall geopolitical potential of the Group. Comparison of GDP, population, territory and military expenditure shows that Poland represents more than 50 per cent of the Group’s total in each category, effectively dominating the rest of the partners combined [1]. Development of a decision-making mechanism in a situation where such a differential of national potential exists would result in either Poland “punching below its weight” or becoming accepted as de facto head of the Group. Each solution would require a significant level of political compromise, which may be difficult to achieve.

  Composition of national contributions in the S4 format is much more balanced, with no country enjoying an across-the-board dominant position. Austria, a likely candidate for the Slavkov leadership, represents 49 per cent of economic and 44 per cent of military contribution, but only 25 per cent and 28 per cent of population and territory totals. Vienna would certainly be the primus inter pares but would not achieve a dominant position. Thus the level of political consensus required would be lower as compared to the V4 format.

  And the last but not least is the different geopolitical position in the context of great power politics. Arguably the most important factor reducing the cohesion of the Visegrad Group is the positioning of its member countries in the context of great power politics [3]. The Moscow (St. Petersburg) – Berlin – Paris axis has been arguably one of the key factors defining European and global politics since 18th century. Even during the Cold War period when Berlin and Paris were effectively marginalised by Washington, the character and importance of the East-West vector remained structurally unchanged.

  Poland remains a critical component of the axis. Due to its geographic location and national potential the country is essentially automatically drawn into the game between great powers. Warsaw, though too weak to exert a dominant influence, may nevertheless shape and disrupt the East-West axis, particularly if supported by another great power. This by default makes Poland a permanent and important element of German and Russian foreign policy. Thus Warsaw has virtually no luxury of opting-out from pursuing an active geopolitical strategy. The country will always be “in play”. The only question is whether it will be a player or just an object of the game.

  The CHS countries by contrast have enjoyed more respite from great power politics. Unlike Poland they will find it easier to “fly below the radar” of great powers [2]. This is not to suggest that great powers are completely disinterested in developments in the Czech Republic, Hungary or the Slovak Republic but merely that such interest is at most times much weaker and less permanent than in the case of Poland.

  The asymmetry of geopolitical positions creates an obstacle in transforming the V4 into a politico-military alliance. By becoming close allies of Poland, CHS would need to increase their exposure to the dynamics of the Berlin-Moscow-Washington triangle. In contrast, creation of the S4 format would not result in imposing a similar strategic liability. Austria, though very relevant in the context of the East-West axis, plays a much more neutral role on the global geopolitical chessboard. 



1. Bahna, Miloslav: Krajiny kultúrne najpodobnejšie a krajiny pre Slovensko nebezpečné. Čo sa zmenilo v období 1996 – 2014? [Most Similar Countries and Countries Dangerous for Slovakia. What has changed between 1996 and 2014?] Sociologický ústav SAV 2015. Available at:

2. Dostál, Vít: Trendy zahraničnej politiky krajín V4. [Trends of Visegrad Foreign Policy] AMO, CEPI, Bratislava 2015.

3. Gyárfášová, Oľga et al.: Visegrad Citizens on the Doorstep of the European Union. Bratislava, Institute for Public Affairs 2003.

4. What Makes the Visegrad Group so Geopolitically Fragile? Available at: