Yves here. Andrew Korybko suggests that it would behoove the US to notice the Ukraine-Germany-Poland power struggles and intervene on behalf of Poland v. Germany. But that would require finesse, a quality not much in evidence in the Administration.
I also am curious to see if European readers agree with this take. It seems plausible that Germany, despite becoming weaker due to de-industrialization and increasingly sharp political divides, would still seek to maximize its position.
By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website
The Biden Administration can either turn a blind eye to its German liberal-globalist allies’ dual power plays over Ukraine and Poland or pragmatically support the latter in order to maintain the geopolitical balance in Europe by averting German hegemony. Whichever of these two options it chooses will have far-reaching implications for US grand strategy.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk’s interview on Friday with the RMF24 radio station saw him hint that Germany is to blame for his country’s dispute with Ukraine. Their bilateral tensions, which saw Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reveal that Warsaw won’t supply Kiev with modern arms any longer, were discussed here and should be read for background. What follows are highlights from the Google Translated version of Mularczyk’s interview that will then be analyzed in the larger context:
* Poland expects the US to take its side by convincing Ukraine to correct its attitude
– “I think that in some way the participation of the United States will cool down hot Ukrainian heads.”
* Kiev’s decision to publicize its problems with Poland risks weakening the anti-Russian coalition
– “This dispute, which is publicly disseminated around the world, serves neither Poland nor Ukraine. Neither does it serve our common cause – defeating Russia in this war. It should be absolutely quiet, all kinds of misunderstandings resolved. This is our goal.”
* Germany is suspected of trying to cut deals with Ukraine behind Poland’s back
– “We see attempts to ‘bypass’ Poland, i.e. talks about transit through Poland and trade in Ukrainian grain over our heads. Certain clues lead to Berlin. It is probably obvious that the frequent recent visits of many ministers to Kiev, as well as meetings of President Zelensky with important German politicians, including Ursula von der Leyen, are perhaps arrangements above our heads.”
* German-controlled Brussels has ulterior motives in offering to resolve the grain dispute
– “Thank you for such help, where Poland is ordered over our heads to open its Polish borders to Ukrainian grain, the aim of which is to finish off Polish agriculture and Polish farmers. Mrs. von der Leyen is not the President or Prime Minister of Poland and these matters are decided in Poland, not in Brussels.”
* Ukraine needs to engage directly with Poland, not Germany, if it wants to improve bilateral ties
– “Ukrainians must understand that if they want to have good relations with Poland, they must establish it with Poland, not with Berlin.”
* Ukrainian oligarchs profit from the German plot to kill Poland’s domestic agricultural industry
– “For these large, global farms and oligarchs in Ukraine, it is best to sell grain in Poland, because it is the cheapest transport, the closest to a large market and it is the most convenient for them. We are open to transit. Let this grain go to France, Berlin, Hamburg, and then to Spain. However, we cannot allow this grain to reach Poland and eliminate Polish agriculture.”
Mularczyk’s argument is intriguing for several reasons. First, it absolves Zelensky of full responsibility by portraying him as a German puppet, which secondly revives Poland’s traditional paranoia about that country’s geopolitical intentions. Third, it replaces prior fears of a secret German-Russian deal over Poland with a new German-Ukrainian one. Fourth, it implies that oligarchs put Zelensky up to this, which finally suggests that he can crack down on them and other pro-German forces to resolve this dispute.
Germany’s alleged power play to kill Poland’s domestic agricultural industry by flooding it with Ukrainian grain aligns with the geostrategic motives explained in this analysis here earlier the summer about how “Germany’s Military Patronage Of Ukraine Ramps Up Its Regional Competition With Poland”. In brief, it was assessed that Berlin is striving to replace Warsaw as Kiev’s top European partner, all with the aim of further pressuring Poland into returning to its traditional post-communist status as a German vassal.
The upcoming elections on 15 October will play a pivotal role in this respect since the return to power of the “Civic Platform” (PO) opposition would end the ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party’s plans to replicate the late Jozef Pilsudski’s policy of remaining equidistant from Germany and Russia via a regional sphere of influence. If the incumbents win re-election though, even if they have to form a coalition government with the anti-establishment Confederation party, then they’re expected to largely retain this course.
Therein lies one of the reasons why Germany is supposedly trying to destroy Poland’s domestic agricultural industry as soon as possible via the means that Mularczyk detailed through Ukrainian grain since PiS will require the continued loyalty of its rural base in order to remain in power. Economically ravaging this electorally strategic part of the country ahead of the next elections could very well doom PiS’ plans, ergo why Berlin allegedly cooked up this latest grain scheme with Kiev’s related oligarchs.
Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus claimed in late August prior to the European Commission lifting its prior compromise deal over its eastern members’ unilateral ban on associated Ukrainian imports that this was an attempt to meddle in the polls:
[It’s] a purely political decision…There are no substantive arguments, nor has anyone presented them to us. Politically, there are elections on 15 October and it’s about destabilising…The EU is trying to use us as part of a partisan struggle. These are very important elections for Poland, but also for Europe, because the narrative in Europe is changing completely: right-wing narratives are starting to win and this leftist policy of the EU is starting to lose.
Mularczyk’s arguments are essentially a more detailed elaboration of Telus’ assessment that doesn’t shy away from directly blaming Germany for the dispute that subsequently unfolded with Ukraine over this extremely sensitive issue.
It’s also interesting to draw attention to his emphasis on Germany’s suspected cultivation of influence among Ukraine’s agricultural oligarchs. That point implies that Poland is well aware of who truly calls the shots behind the scenes in that country, namely shadowy but very powerful forces much more than its public representatives. Apart from the oligarchs, who operate in a wide array of industries, this also includes various factions among its military and intelligence services.
Germany’s supposedly secret alliance with Ukraine’s agricultural oligarchs show that it’s trying to pull Zelensky’s strings via these forces, though that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for this dispute since it was he himself who hinted at the UNGA that Poland was doing Russia’s bidding. Mularczyk’s condemnation of him for those remarks and his concern that they risk weakening the anti-Russian coalition flips the script by ironically suggesting that it’s Zelensky who’s the one doing Russia’s bidding.
Even so, the rest of his interview builds the narrative that powerful agricultural oligarchs pushed him to do this at Germany’s urging, but it gives Zelensky the chance to resolve the Polish-Ukrainian dispute by cracking down on these forces. For that to happen, however, Poland believes that the US would have to convince him to make this move and fully back him in the face of the potential consequences. In effect, Mularczyk wants Zelensky to purge German agents of influence on a US-backed anti-corruption pretext.
He’s unlikely to do this on his own at that Polish official’s thinly disguised request, which is why it’ll ultimately come down to whatever the US decides to do. The Biden Administration can either turn a blind eye to its German liberal–globalist allies’ dual power plays over Ukraine and Poland or pragmatically support the latter in order to maintain the geopolitical balance in Europe by averting German hegemony. Whichever of these two options it chooses will have far-reaching implications for US grand strategy.