By Conor Gallagher
For the better part of a year the Putin administration has been accused of using “twisted logic” to spread the “false narrative” that Poland might join the fight in Ukraine. Recall that Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev published the following map last year:
Well we now have an increasing number of signs that something of the sort is in the works. The Polish ambassador to France said in March that Poland would be forced to enter the war if Ukraine failed. The quote:
Therefore, either Ukraine will defend its independence today, or we will have to enter this conflict. Because our main values, which were the basis of our civilization and our culture will be threatened. Therefore, we will have no choice but to enter the conflict.
The Polish embassy in France later walked the statement back, but more signs are pointing to Warsaw’s growing role.During his recent trip to Poland, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky made the following loaded comment: “You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and we are grateful for it,” and he added the pledge that be “no borders in political, economic and – especially important – in historical terms” between the two countries.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was just making the rounds in the US where he criticized France and Germany and while visiting VP Kamala Harris at the White House and declared Poland the “leader of the new Europe” after the “failure of the old Europe.” More:
“Old Europe believed in an agreement with Russia and old Europe failed,” said the Polish premier. “But there is a new Europe, a Europe that remembers what Russian communism was, and Poland is the leader of this new Europe. Poland wants to become a bedrock of European security and we are on the right track.”
“Poland wants to build the strongest army in Europe, that is why we want to cooperate with the most advanced defence industry in the world, which is the American industry,” he continued.
Indeed, Morawiecki also met with US defense industry representatives to discuss financing the billions of dollars of Warsaw’s planned purchases of F-35 fighter jets, Abrams tanks, HIMARS artillery systems and Patriot missile launching units. Additionally, Morawiecki announced Polish aims to become the “service center” for the US-made Abrams tanks in Europe.
A March 26 op-ed written by Dalibor Rohac, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in Foreign Policy is titled “It’s Time to Bring Back the Polish-Lithuanian Union.”
Using the 700-year-old example of when the ruler of Lithuania, Jogaila, married the child queen of Poland, Jadwiga, to create a political union between Poland and Lithuania that also included large parts of today’s Belarus and Ukraine, Rohac urges the following:
Fast-forward to the present and to the near future, however. Both countries are facing a threat from Russia. Today, Poland is a member in good standing of the EU and NATO, while Ukraine is keen to join both organizations—not unlike the Grand Duchy of yesteryear, eager to become part of mainstream, Christianized Europe. Even if Ukraine’s war against Russia ends with a decisive Ukrainian victory, driving degraded Russian forces out of the country, Kyiv faces a potentially decades long struggle to join the EU, not to speak of obtaining credible security guarantees from the United States. The poorly governed, unstable countries of the Western Balkans, prone to Russian and Chinese interference, provide a warning about where prolonged “candidate status” and European indecision might lead. A militarized Ukrainian nation, embittered at the EU because of its inaction, and perhaps aggrieved by an unsatisfactory conclusion of the war with Russia, could easily become a liability for the West.
Imagine instead that, at the end of the war, Poland and Ukraine form a common federal or confederal state, merging their foreign and defense policies and bringing Ukraine into the EU and NATO almost instantly. The Polish-Ukrainian Union would become the second-largest country in the EU and arguably its largest military power, providing more than an adequate counterweight to the Franco-German tandem—something that the EU is sorely missing after Brexit.
Timothy Less, lead researcher at the Centre for Geopolitics’ project on Disintegration Studies at Cambridge, believes Warsaw is trying to create breakaway NATO group with the “Bucharest Nine,” which is made up of Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia. From Unherd:
Balkans expert Timothy Less calls this the “new Warsaw Pact”, which rather than defending Russia’s interests, seeks to protect central and Eastern Europe from the Russians. For Less, this is a strategy that echoes the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth born in the late Middle Ages, as well as the Intermarium, a fanciful plan by Polish leader Józef Piłsudski to form a superstate from the Baltic to the Black Sea after the First World War. Behind each of these alliances was a fear of bullying neighbours over the centuries — Prussia, the German Reich, Austria-Hungary and, of course, Russia.
Poland’s Eastern European alliance, according to Less, “would marginalise France and Germany, threaten the predominant position of the EU in Europe and galvanise its seeming slow-motion decline”. It’s a vision that will appeal to Eurosceptics across the Continent: a new era in which the US gradually moves its military resources from Germany to Poland, a growing hub of power and influence.
Biden met with representatives from the Bucharest Nine in Warsaw back in February in an attempt to rally them to the war cause. There are obvious divisions in the group, however, with countries like Hungary and Bulgaria questioning the war while Poland and the Baltic states are some of its strongest backers.
Another Foreign Policy piece from February is called “How Poland and Ukraine Could Undermine Putin’s Imperial Dreams.” This is written by Pawel Markiewicz, the executive director of the Washington office of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, and Maciej Olchawa, the Kosciuszko Foundation scholar at Loyola University Chicago. It is filled with magical thinking and arrives at the same idea of Poland playing a key role in Putin’s downfall:
Poland knows that when given the tools and know-how, Ukraine will quickly shift from being a consumer of Western security to a critical provider of it for the Euro-Atlantic community. These like-minded anti-imperialists not only threaten to upend Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revanchist drive once and for all but are accelerating the shift of Europe’s political and military center of gravity east, something that will redefine the European Union and NATO for decades to come. The West should prepare for contingencies following the fall of Putin’s empire—one of which is a postwar Europe underpinned by a Polish-Ukrainian strategic alliance.
Former Stratfor director George Friedman, believing that NATO was obsolete, was resurrecting this idea of an “Intermarium” all the way back in 2010. Highly influential in the DC policymaking circles, Friedman wrote the following in his “Geopolitical Journey, Part 2: Borderlands”
[A] US-backed Poland guarding the North European Plain, with Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania guarding the Carpathian approaches, would prevent what the United States should fear the most: an alliance between Russia and Germany plus Western Europe.”
This narrative that Warsaw will be the new European power center of NATO as it is taking some sort of courageous stand that the Germans, French, and much of the EU refuse to do is picking up steam.
Now, after Warsaw helped get Germany to agree to send Leopard 2 tanks following weeks of pressure, Polish officials are urging the U.S. and its European allies to jointly supply Ukraine with F-16 jet fighters, said Andrzej Zybertowicz, an adviser on the Polish National Security Bureau.
Poland is “an important defender of NATO’s eastern flank,” said Mr. Zybertowicz, adding that Poland’s forward position means it must act more boldly than other European allies, such as Germany.
“Poland has struck out on its own after decades of following currents within the EU because it now understands that following others in Europe is dangerous not only for Poland’s prosperity but for its very existence,” he said.
“Our red lines are practical in nature, [determined by] the operational capability of our armed forces,” said [Jacek Siewiera, the head of the country’s national security bureau]. “But if Poland would receive assistance from allies, in the form of backfilling process, we could still do more,” he said.
And from the Atlantic Council:
Polish leadership is helping to fill a geopolitical vacuum created by the declining influence of Europe’s traditionally dominant foreign policy forces. Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, greatly reducing the UK’s ability to shape Europe’s response to the Russian threat. Meanwhile, throughout his reign, Putin has demonstrated an ability to co-opt French and German politicians and businessmen with trade deals, pipelines, and other incentives. It is no coincidence that the Russian dictator handpicked Germany and France in 2014 to participate in the Normandy Format talks to end the war sparked by Russia in eastern Ukraine. This approach resulted in the failed Minsk Agreements and set the stage for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Alexander Mercouris on his April 5 broadcast discussed the possibility of Polish involvement and detailed the hurdles hawks there are facing, which include
- The Polish military is opposed to any confrontation with Russia as they have seen their weaponry destroyed by Russia on the Ukrainian battlefield.
- Many members of the Polish military have already been killed in Ukraine and many others, fearing a confrontation with Russia, have deserted.
- A lack of public support. Poland taking in so many Ukrainian refugees and importing Ukrainian wheat has damaged the market for Poland’s own agriculture, upsetting Polish farmers. (Warsaw has since suspended imports of Ukrainian grain.)
- Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party will soon have to face upcoming elections and would damage their chances with further involvement in Ukraine.
But rational decision making is in short supply these days.
What I think most of all is that the empire is now desperately seeking to buy time. They have awakened to the reality that they are quite literally in no position to engage in any manner of high-intensity conflict against Russia – or anyone else for that matter.
— Will Schryver (@imetatronink) April 8, 2023
Poland would, in theory, have a lot to gain from Europe’s center of gravity shifting eastward, which likely explain its visions of grandeur. France and Germany would have the most to lose. French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to be hedging his bets while in Beijing, declaring that the EU should not become “America’s followers.” A little late for that. Meanwhile, there’s a new trial balloon in the air:
Whoa! I did NOT see THIS plot twist! The Poles are agreeing with the Russians that Ukraine needs to be de-Nazified.
Is Poland signaling to Russia, in order to come to a territorial arrangement over western Ukraine?
Just a thought. https://t.co/rNc26rmC2c
— Gonzalo Lira (@GonzaloLira1968) April 9, 2023