By Matthew Clark
Poland, to judge by its' history, is a very interesting nation (unlike my own country of Canada). Certainly the jurisdictions citizens do not shy away from conflict, or controversy. Anyone who followed current events during the cold war is aware of the newsworthy figure
Lech Walensa, leader of the Solidarity ship workers union, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and later President of Poland. Walensa, in his opposition to communist rule of his homeland, was joined by Pope John Paul, earthly leader of the Roman Catholic Church, descendant of Saint Peter, who was the first in rank, of the Lord Jesus apostles. Together these two men were a thorn in the side of all communist totalitarians, a group who continually tries to eliminate individual liberty from the face of the earth.
Poland was an early foe of Soviet Russia. They fought a war against the Red Army shortly after the Soviet revolution. In 1920 it appeared to be the case that the Trotsky led Red Army was about to storm Warsaw, and, if successful, march through war torn Europe to Berlin, and even beyond. On August 16, 1920 Polish forces, commanded by Josez Pilsudski, counterattacked the communist army. In what is called The 'Miracle On The Vistula' the Poles succeeded in driving the Red Army all the way back to the Ukraine.
After the Second World War Poland was occupied by the forces of the Soviet Union. Poland, on a percentage basis, suffered the heaviest casualties of any country during World War Two ( the Soviet Union was the nation which lost the most people in total). The Soviets installed a communist government which acted as a satellite for the Moscow forces. Despite the harsh rule of the Soviet friendly government the Polish people defied their oppressors. First there was the 1956 Posnan riots, then massive protests in 1970 against government measures. Finally in the late 1970's and into the 1980's the Poles rallied around the Solidarity Trade Union movement (supported by the Roman Catholic Church) to defy the Soviet Satellite rulers. Even when the Polish authorities declared martial law on December 13, 1981, the people of Poland would not flinch. They continued their non compliance against the puppet politicians and eventually succeeded in getting their individual freedom.
Poland has had many episodes of conflict with great powers (particularly Russia and Germany). At one time Poland was politically united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (now the nation of Lithuania). Part of the territory of this impressive kingdom included Western Ukraine. In 1610 Poland/Lithuania besieged Moscow (during the Russian 'Time of Troubles'). Seventy three years later, on September 12 of that year, the leader of the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, King John III Sobieski, vanquished the Ottoman Turks before the Gates Of Vienna, Austria, thus saving Christian Europe from the Tyrannical Sultan.
Unfortunately for the Poles, starting on August 5th 1772, the Commonwealth was partitioned by the Austrian Hapsburg, Prussian, and Russian empires. Poland- Lithuania was devoured in three stages. Each time the three great powers took portions of the nation until it no longer existed politically. Partition number two occurred January 23, 1793, with the final tragedy taking place on October 24, 1795. As a political entity Poland ceased to exist until the end of the Great War in 1918, 123 years later.
Therefore as a result of its history the Poles have experienced Glory and Oppression, Victory
and defeat. Above all they have become seasoned in the consequences of Geopolitics for a country surrounded by great powers which are militarily stronger than themselves.
On 1 May. 2004 Poland joined the European Union. On March 12, 1999 Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Both the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, half a continent away from the Poles. Becoming a member of the European Union was performed for economic reasons. There was a hope that belonging to such a large trading zone would increase financial prosperity for the Polish citizenry. Joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meant, supposedly, military security against attack from Russia. In this reasoning the Polish government was betraying the trauma of their history. Russia could not have invaded anyone in 1999. Russia in 1999 was financially bankrupt, one consequence of that being its military was mothballed. Clearly the Polish authorities were anticipating a future where Russia reinvigorated itself to challenge the west. Curiously, no one in Poland, or much of the western world, voiced the opinion that by treating Russia as a hostile entity, even when it was down, they might in the long run, be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Over time many Polish citizens have come to realize the European Union is as much a threat to their sovereignty as Russia, and Germany, were in the past. The leaders in Brussels are always trying to sanction the nations government. Brussels is threatened by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's habit of acting independently. Meaning he does what is in the best interest of Poland's citizens, rather than Brussels bureaucrats. The most recent occasion of European Union censure was the spring of 2022.
In February of 2022 Russian military forces, following the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, invaded the country of Ukraine, whose western border it shares with Poland. President Putin took this action to forestall a military initiative the Ukraine government was going to enact against the Russian speaking population of eastern Ukraine. As well the Ukrainian government was getting ready to petition the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the military alliance. Finally the Ukraine president announced his government was thinking of pulling out of the 1992 Bucharest agreement (when Ukraine agreed to give up her nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union, and not develop new ones). Faced with an existential threat to his country President Putin took action. ( much as President John Fitzgerald Kennedy of the United States did in 1962 over the threat of thermonuclear missiles in Cuba).
Overnight Poland, as in so many times in its history, has become the front for a huge geopolitical struggle. And like so many past times the conflict could metamorphose into a struggle for survival.
Ukraine is being supported politically by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations. It is also receiving the bulk of its military supplies from this organization. Poland is the main route through which these supplies are shipped. Poland has also, next to the United States, given the Ukraine the most military material. One example of this, according to the Washington Post newspaper, is the shipment to the Ukraine of 200 Polish tanks.
Why? There seems to be very little, if any, gain for the Polish people! Russia is further angered, and hostile, to these Polish actions. Meanwhile the European Union, despite Poland's vulnerability in the present situation, continues to attack Polish independence, even to the point of interfering in the Mateusz governments relations with the nations judiciary. The European Union is bent on harassing Polish lawmakers until they surrender unconditionally to Brussels even as the Poles defend those same Europeans.
Then there is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Poland is one of three countries, the United States and the United Kingdom being the two others, within the organization who fulfill their economic obligations. Most countries within the military alliance will not even spend 2% of their total Public Financial expenditures on their military. As a result of this policy failure those nations armies, navies, and air forces, are anemic. Even the United States and United Kingdom martial prowess is suspect. Each of the two country's armed forces personnel are perilously divided over social and health policies within there organization(s). Recruitment drives to restock the military forces with sufficient numbers in the United States have failed. Finally the hollowing out of western developed nations manufacturing industry means they could not adequately re-supply their forces in any prolonged conflict. Therefore the only way to beat the Russians in a war where Russian armed forces move against North Atlantic Treaty Organization territory is to implement Thermo-Nuclear War.
Thus Poland is in an unenviable position. Face a potential conflict with the Russian bear where your only support comes from slack allies, or be the catalyst for a nuclear conflagration. Neither is a viable option.
Nevertheless there is an answer to this gloomy prospect. With the Russians gaining ascendency in Eastern Ukraine, and the Ukraine's military, what is left of it after a terrible beating from Putin's forces, deployed mostly opposite the Russians, the Polish lawmakers could order their army to occupy Western Ukraine, with the potential resistance from the Ukraine being greatly reduced.
From Poland's perspective there are a number of upsides to this policy. It would give the Poles a territorial buffer vis-a-vis the Russians. Any military activity by the Russians regarding their traditional adversary would have to take into account that Poland had gotten a lot bigger. Such a strong action would probably get grudging admiration from the Russians. After all they had done the same thing to the Poles in 1772, 1793, 1795, and 1939. Poland would just be committing a geopolitical act which had been done to them on four occasions.
Certainly the European Union would try and vent its wrath against their favourite kicking boy, but the Poles have dealt with this situation for years. Also given the Unions economic troubles at present, they are going to limit their outrage. The Mateusz government can also point out to their fellow Europeans that since Ukraine was not part of the European Union, and Poland is, occupying West Ukraine with Polish forces brings more territory into the Union.
Finally there is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. No doubt there would be huffing and puffing over the partition of Ukraine. Yet it is a more attractive solution than a wholesale acquisition of the country by President Putin's forces. As well it removes a nuclear war scenario (at least temporarily) from the present situation.
No doubt there would be some economic penalties exacted against Poland but they are use to that from years of European Union harassment. Better to persevere against progressive and neocon outrage, with an answer which brings the most benefit. Perhaps, in the end, even the beleaguered Ukrainians would find well-being in the partition of their country.