After the annexation of Crimea, every EU country that was either associated within the Warsaw Pact or part of the Soviet Union became a founding member of the Bucharest Nine (B9) initiative to discuss defence concerns in yearly summits. In those countries, now increasingly referred to as ‘Europe’s eastern flank’, allied military presence increased sevenfold to 300,000 units just four months into the Russian invasion. Their unyielding defence intent, stated during NATO’s summit in Vilnius, is reflected in B9’s growing military spending, which is bound to shape NATO’s most prominent defence transformation and modernisation effort since the Cold War.
Several nations of Central and Eastern Europe used to be part of the Warsaw Pact (1955-1991) and acquired a large military arsenal of Soviet origin during the Cold War. Today, they represent strategic partners and allies of the European Union and NATO that share the same visions and values (NATO, 2021). Despite the economic crisis of the past decade, the difficulties that the Covid-19 pandemic brought and all the political, financial, and logistical issues that the procurement of new military equipment implies, these countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria), are aiming at replacing their Soviet-era equipment by acquiring up-to-date military assets to comply with NATO standards (IISS, 2020: 73) and increase the capabilities of their land forces.