The prospect of a global conflict in the coming years is quite real, so the aim is to keep the threat of its consequences for Poland as low as possible in the future.
THE WEST AND THE “RUSSIAN PAIN”
This moral asymmetry is even confirmed by the analysis of the most radical stance towards Russia taken by Great Britain (among Western countries). It is evident – contrary to the propaganda of the supporters of the EU supremacy over the member states – Brexit did not weaken the NATO solidarity of the British, but rather strengthened it, and this is no paradox. Today, Boris Johnson is saying what Western leaders should have said during their aggression against Georgia in 2008. He calls for bringing back strategic balance, but even he does not speak of the legitimate response of Eastern European nations to occupation and Soviet oppression, but only “basic principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”, about “the right to choose one’s sovereign fate”. After all, Ukraine is not about “choosing for choosing’ sake”, about a choice against Russia, but about erasing the Soviet past. The USSR, however, is a taboo subject. Regardless, Boris Johnson is emphatically the exception that proves the rule. The most succinct attitude of the West was expressed by the mentor of the current US president, former president Barack Obama.
In “A Promised Land”, his presidential diaries, Obama writes that thanks to talks with Putin (conducted shortly after the aggression against Georgia) he understood that Russia’s claims to America (for NATO enlargement in particular) express “a genuine sense of pain”. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, went to Moscow with a similar attitude as the first Western leader during the Ukrainian crisis. He said that “useful solutions to avoid war and to build trust and stability must be sought” because “there is no security for the people of Europe if there is no security for Russia”. When asked about the “finlandization of Ukraine” he replied that “it is one of the options to consider”, but that “it is not about inventing formulas now, but about coming up with something new by definition”. Commentators interpreted this not as a reference to Finland’s status during the Soviet era, but as a proposal to maintain its partnership with NATO without joining NATO. Macron also gave the criterion of the solution to be sought: “Matters will not be solved by leaving Ukraine in no man’s land, without the possibility of sovereignty and security”.
Germany’s position goes in the same direction as that of France, only further. This is because Germany would like to free the construction of Nord Stream 2 and its policy of energy cooperation with Russia from the controversy. The decisive vote, however, will, of course, be the Americans. Already now – as part of preliminary talks with Moscow – they are signaling their readiness not to deploy any offensive weapons in Ukraine, which is only a sign of openness to the Russian position and readiness to make further arrangements. This is how Russia took it. Minister Lavrov said that the current position of the US and NATO contains “rational seeds in secondary matters”, so Russia will continue talks, but maintains its demands.
The old truth is that you do not change horses halfway for a ford or, to speak in more modern terms, you do not make a U-turn on a one-way street. Politics must take circumstances into account. Today, Poland can say above all what Turkey can say: we belong to NATO and we will fulfill all the resulting obligations. However, Recep Erdoğan – by conveying this clear and credible signal – offers Russia and Ukraine his mediation and the mission of good services in resolving the conflict. For he knows well that it is not in Turkey’s interest to have a war that could end up, indeed, being Russia’s problem, but above all with a reduction in security in the Black Sea basin. Due to our tense relations with Russia, we do not have the legitimacy to propose bilateral mediation, but this is not a reason for us to make public visions on how to radicalize it, instead of calmly supporting the real policy of NATO, defined primarily by the USA.
President Duda boldly supports Ukraine’s participation in NATO. Would “readiness for support”, that is a promise of support, not be enough, as long as the matter is the subject of a real decision? Because what does Polish support mean today? That Andrzej Duda is ready to send troops across the Dnieper? Or maybe closer to Volhynia (because the Russians also deploy troops in Belarus, quite close to us)? After all, the extent of NATO’s commitment determines the position of the United States. It is not very serious to talk about what American policy we would like to see. Americans know what they can commit to, and we should not delude Ukraine that the extent of these commitments will be an indicator of our desires. The best demonstration of our determination should not be a flashy exhibition of our perspective, ignoring the position of real decision-makers, but an immediate and well-targeted increase in defense spending, which we should systematically do anyway. There is certainly a practical national consensus on this matter.
In December, I wrote an article about possible peaceful actions at Poland’s disposal. Poland was able to make its own declaration as the only NATO state that neighbors both Russia and Ukraine at the same time. This was in the initial phase of the conflict, before the start of the current round of talks and contacts, before formal positions were defined. We were able to declare that talks on the security of Eastern Europe are certainly necessary, also in the form of an international conference, but they must not ignore the drastic militarization of the Konigsberg region and the Russian presence in Belarus. Later, in January, this should have also been our response to the Russian appeal for “not increasing the security” of Central and Eastern Europe at the expense of reducing that of Russia. Russia is not counting on its appeals to be literally fulfilled but seeks to get concessions. So we must act in the same manner, or at least similarly.
Communicating our expectations in the scope of border security would be a signal that the Republic of Poland treats its systematically strengthened defense as a means, its goal is security, and that it is always ready to talk about increasing it. This would be the first step towards regaining (even in the future) the capacity of equal talks with Russia, and thus the status enjoyed by the most important European countries. On the diplomatic plane, the position of the state results from the seriousness, content, and creativity of its message; and the ability to talk, of course.
THE GLOBAL NATURE OF THE THREAT
The current crisis may end in some time, the more so given that the West is not eager to go to war. But the war threat will not go away because its essence lies deeper. Today, aggression is still a problem for Russia, but it will become easier as soon as Sino-American relations intensify, especially if Iran, the third member of the anti-Western axis, becomes more active at the same time. The prospect of a global conflict in the coming years is quite real, so the point is that the threat of its consequences for Poland should be as low as possible in the future. Our policy is dominated by preparations for defense in the event of Russian aggression. It is also time to start thinking about how to reduce the risk of a war, how to make it more difficult for Russia to conduct it, how to reduce tension on our borders, and how to postpone the danger even in time. Today is the time for an international presentation of Polish security aims, because – what is worth noting – that is what everyone is talking about. It’s time for us to talk about Poland, nobody else will talk about it for us.
This article was published in February 2022 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.