How can Poland threaten Russia?

MOSCOW, 27 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

“Information waves” periodically sweep through Russian social networks with descriptions of various threats to Russia. During the second Karabakh war and later, the idea of Turkey’s supposedly imminent expansion into Transcaucasia and Central Asia, from where it was about to completely displace Russia, became fashionable.

Now a concept has suddenly gained popularity that warns about the rise of Poland in the post-Soviet space and Warsaw’s plans to create a Baltic-Black Sea Union (again, not without Ankara’s participation). The authors of alarmist publications recall the Polish “Intermarium” project and idealise Polish “soft power”.

The problem is that in such cases, many Polish propaganda and journalistic statements are not critically evaluated, not to mention the methodological failures. Let’s start with the fact that in the modern Polish political space, the “Intermarium” project does not exist. Some Russian authors confuse it with the “Three Seas” initiative, thereby making a serious mistake.

“Intermarium” is a geopolitical concept that was promoted in the interwar period (1918-1939) by one of the fathers of Polish independence, Jozef Pilsudski, while such a prominent politician as Roman Dmowski, as well as Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Belarusian circles opposed it. This has gone into the past.

Currently, at the level of government decisions, economic and political analysis in Poland, the “Three Seas” initiative is relevant and originated not even in Warsaw, but in Washington. Its authors are members of the Atlantic Council, who positioned the project as an economic one. It was about creating North-South transport and energy corridors in Europe in the interests of the United States, as an alternative to the traditional East-West.

Poland, indeed, tried to give the “Three Seas” initiative geopolitical significance, to contrast it with Russia and (behind the scenes) Germany. But even under Trump, these efforts were not supported. And in July of this year, the Washington Declaration signed by Biden and Merkel referred the “Three Seas” – to the deep frustration of the Poles – to the zone of influence of Berlin. This is the first point.

The second point: it would also be a big exaggeration to talk about the effectiveness of Poland’s “soft power”. And what is it expressed in? The “Pole Card” is considered by its recipients in Ukraine and Belarus, rather, as a means of transportation, facilitating trips to Poland and doing business there. However, this does not make its owners more loyal to Warsaw and its policies.

Even with the influx of millions of Ukrainian migrant workers to Poland after the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, when it became dangerous and difficult to travel to Russia, these economic migrants are practically not amenable to assimilation.

Ukrainians who remain permanently in Polish cities prefer to preserve their language, their culture and their vision of difficult moments in history. And the latter is dominated by nationalist narratives of an anti-Polish nature.

However, does this mean that Warsaw is not able to become at some stage a problem for Russia in the eastern direction (let’s not talk about the south, this is exotic)? Such a scenario can still be allowed. But under very specific conditions. To do this, Poland must accept the role of a springboard for proxy operations within the framework of NATO or the European Union.

In the first case, Britain, which has recently demonstrated its aggressive intentions against Russia on the Ukrainian bridgehead, is able to “pick it up”. In the second – Germany, which could “via Polish hands” compete with Moscow in Ukraine, Belarus and indirectly in the Baltic states.

However, the British option promises Poland the danger of turning into a second Syria. As for the German one, Berlin must first bring to power the opposition forces of the currently ruling Polish Law and Justice party, and then completely suppress Poland’s resistance to Brussels.

Considering that the Poles, for all their ambition and emotionality, still know how to calculate risks, it is difficult for us to imagine that they will be ready to go on anti-Russian adventures for the sake of other people’s interests. Although there is a third way: Warsaw will abandon the bloc policy and go out on its own, after which, indeed, it will decide to restore its influence from the times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in its best years.

But this will be possible only if the North Atlantic Bloc is finally torn apart by centrifugal tendencies, and the EU enters a new integration project, narrowing to the size of historical Western Europe. There is no reason to imagine that Warsaw will refuse membership in these associations on its own initiative. The European Union will “digest” the rebellious Poles faster, subjugating them completely.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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