Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Russian trap: an invitation to partitions

Something must be done about this imperialist Poland! This call is addressed to Russians, to Poles (among whom Moscow is still looking for candidates for the new Union of Polish Patriots), but always to Western audiences as well

Andrzej Nowak

The main scapegoat for us is Poland. If we and the European bureaucrats need a common enemy, Poland will be the best candidate,” this was the conclusion reached by Russian scholars at a meeting preparing the strategy for the new phase of Putin’s war for control over Eastern Europe. The deliberation took place and was published on the cusp of 2020 in the prestigious journal Russia in Global Affairs, published by the administration of the President of the Russian Federation.

At that meeting, a professor at Soros University in Budapest (now in Vienna), Alexei Miller, a well-known and respected expert on Polish affairs in Putin’s circle, hinted at the idea of portraying the Polish Second Republic primarily as a center of anti-Semitism, the source of the Holocaust. The Russian president used these hints in his most comprehensive text on history, which he published for Western audiences in the pages of the American quarterly National Interest in mid-2020. In this view, Hitler turned out to be only a minor helper of the sanctioned Foreign Ministry elite – the actual instigator of the genocide of the Jews. As a prescription for the resurgent disease of Eastern European small but genocidal nationalism, Putin proposed in the conclusion of his great essay (“The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II”) the cooperation of the powers that should jointly restore order to the world. A new Yalta is needed.

Since the passage of the Russian army to the next stage of the “ordering operation” in our part of the world, there is probably not a month that President Putin does not personally raise the issue of the threat posed by Poland. This time it’s no longer just about Polish anti-Semitism and racism, which was stigmatized effectively in cooperation with European media and politicians during Putin’s and Lukashenko’s action of transferring migrants from the Central East and the Middle East, held back by Polish border services. Now the number one topic is renewed, predatory Polish imperialism. “Poland wants to partition Ukraine”, Russian politicians and experts are alarming Ukrainians and the West. This very issue was considered at length by President Putin at a special meeting with the Russian Historical Society in Moscow on November 4th. As he ironically expressed himself, the old “idée” of Poland from sea to sea is making a comeback in Warsaw. On the occasion of the war and the “alleged aid” given to Kiev, the Polish elite actually want to take back from Ukraine the lands that the Second Polish Republic lost in 1939. Only Russia is the guarantor of Ukrainian statehood and sovereignty in this situation, Putin stated firmly. He was echoed by the chairman of the Russian Historical Society, Sergei Naryshkin. This one may not have any historical education (other than the one he received at KGB universities), but he is instead the highest-ranking officer in the special services, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS). And in this dual role of historian-intelligence officer, Naryshkin confirmed on December 7th that Polish President Andrzej Duda had already ordered subordinate services to prepare a justification for the annexation of the Lviv, Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil regions. The KGB veteran assured that preparations are already in full swing for a pseudo-referendum in which the residents of these regions will approve the Polish annexation…

Naryshkin’s overly specific statement was an expansion of a sentence the Russian president had formulated the day before at a meeting with members of his Human Rights Council: “nationalist elements in Poland […] want to reclaim their so-called historical territories. Under the guise of helping Ukraine, they are preparing its partition. Poland’s shift to a policy of annexing Ukrainian lands was also announced authoritatively by RF Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

He is not the only one, Naryshkin or other “historians” are developing an exegesis of Putin’s warnings against Polish imperialism. Among others, a member of the Duma Committee for Enlightenment, Anatoly Vasserman, commented extensively: Poland wants to return to the role of a colonizer in Ukraine, renewing the worst traditions of European colonialism. The icing on the cake is put by Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, also a graduate of the KGB’s higher school and currently vice-chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee: “There have already been three partitions of Poland. If the Poles continue like this [developing their colonialism at the expense of Ukraine], I don’t rule out that there will be a fourth partition, which this time they may not survive.”

Well, something must be done about this imperialist Poland! This call is addressed to Russians, to Poles (among whom Moscow is still looking for candidates for the new Union of Polish Patriots), but always to Western audiences as well. Today, unlike in 2020, they seem to be counting a little less on American “realists” in Moscow. Rather, they are turning to the old, tried, and tested guarantors of the “sovereign order” in Europe: in Berlin and Paris. This is how RF Federation Council Deputy Chairman Konstantin Kosachev commented, with kindly hope, on the Sisyphean efforts of President Macron and Chancellor Scholz to meet Russia’s security needs: “In France and Germany, the instinct for self-preservation is returning.” Russia warns of Polish invaders and is ready to tame them – together with its European partners.

This article was published in January 2022 in “Do Rzeczy” weekly.