From eastern Europe we watch Ukraine in fear. Its fate could affect the continent’s future | Karolina Wigura and Jarosław Kuisz

Past trauma means we worry about Russia reclaiming its cold war sphere of influence and that the west will again abandon us

Two points about the Ukraine crisis are crystal clear. First, Vladimir Putin wishes to reimpose Russian control over Ukraine, whatever the price. His political dream of restoring the Soviet sphere of influence is echoed in a wishlist of “security guarantees” presented to western governments by Russia in December 2021. Nato, he maintains, should return to the pre-1997 state of affairs; Russia, apparently, need not.

Second, whatever Putin decides in the current crisis, there are real fears in central and eastern Europe that settled borders are now under threat. These fears are grounded in reason. What seemed unrealistic in the immediate post-cold war years is now again a real possibility. Questions about our collective safety and security have returned, along with memories of a traumatic and not so remote past.

Karolina Wigura is a historian of ideas, board member of the Kultura Liberalna Foundation in Warsaw and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin

Jarosław Kuisz is a political analyst and essayist, editor-in-chief of the Polish weekly Kultura Liberalna and a policy fellow at the University of Cambridge

Guardian Newsroom: Will Russia invade Ukraine? Join Mark Rice-Oxley, Andrew Roth, Luke Harding, Nataliya Gumenyuk and Orysia Lutsevych discussing the developments with Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday 8 February, 8pm GMT | 9pm CET | midday PDT | 3pm EDT. Book tickets here

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