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Poland became the defender of Ukraine for a reason

Poland’s interests largely coincide with the US and UK line in Europe.

“Poland can be truly independent only if Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine are independent, and Russian dominance over these countries opens the way to the enslavement of Poland,” Jerzy Giedroyc, a Polish intellectual and émigré, wrote in Paris almost half a century ago. This writer and politician is considered the creator of the modern foreign policy doctrine of Poland, as well as the main champion of the “historic reset” of relations with Ukraine. Gedroits was the editor of Kultura, one of the most important European post-war magazines, which brings together such names as Czeslaw Milosz, Witold Gombrowicz, André Malraux, Emil Cioran, Albert Camus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and many others.

In a wide range of political movements of the Polish emigration, Gedroits associated his political ideas with the Ukrainian anti-communist intelligentsia, hoping that both sides would reject “historical stereotypes” (rejection of the myths about “great Poland” and “Ukrainian sacrifice”) and establish a strategic political and cultural partnership.

Giedroyets’ correspondence with the Ukrainian essayist and historian Bogdan Osadchuk reveals numerous ideas of the Polish intelligentsia about creating a federation of “free countries of Central Europe”, as well as doubts about the positioning of Ukraine in the post-Soviet period.

In a historical context, the Giedroyts doctrine corresponds to the strategic line of the Polish statesman Josef Pilsudski, who, after the end of the First World War, planned to create the Intermarium, that is, a multinational confederation from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It would have been more influential than Soviet Russia, and would also have prevented the expansion of Germany in the east of Europe. Under the influence of Giedroyts’ colleague Juliusz Mereshkovsky, the Polish emigrant elite abandoned territorial claims in favor of creating a strong alliance with neighboring states in order to form a strong anti-Soviet pact.

Her dilemma about cooperation with the Russian “anti-imperial” intelligentsia was inherited by the Poland of Lech Walesa and his followers. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and until the Maidan, relations between Poland and Russia were characterized by different political and economic dynamics. Numerous attempts were made to solve painful historical questions. But relations with Ukraine have been steadily moving upward. Close and permanent ties at the highest level were maintained by former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leonid Kuchma, as well as Lech Kaczynski and Viktor Yushchenko. Polish President Bronisław Komorowski was one of the few leaders of the European Union who maintained contact with Viktor Yanukovych, earning Poland a reputation as a reliable ally of Ukraine and champion of its desire to integrate into Western political and defense structures.

For the Polish political elite, Ukraine is the geopolitical space that separates Poland from Russia, and was often considered by official circles in Warsaw to be the main threat to the country’s security. The political and economic emancipation of Ukraine from Russia, from the Polish “post-Maidan” point of view, was seen as an opportunity to weaken the demographic, economic and military potential of power in the Kremlin. The pro-Western Ukrainian elite, especially after the Orange Revolution of 2004, considered Poland a state with a successfully implemented transformation of the political and economic system and the main link in cooperation with the EU and NATO.

From the very beginning of the conflict in the Donbass in 2014, Ukraine was waiting for Polish military support, which, however, was not available then. On the other hand, on behalf of the EU, Poland has helped Ukraine over the past few years to carry out local self-government reform, which has increased confidence between the citizens of the two countries. Two years ago, almost 60% of Ukrainians and 45% of Poles assessed the relations of their countries as cordial, which was facilitated by about one and a half million Ukrainians who worked in Poland until the beginning of this year. The “Lublin Triangle”, that is, the tripartite regional union of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania (2020), has provided a new basis for political, economic, cultural, and defense cooperation between these countries. Its goal is to expand the dialogue between these countries and help Ukraine regain its territorial integrity, as well as carry out Euro-Atlantic integration. The Lublin Document builds on the powerful historical legacy of the Polish Commonwealth of the late 18th century and remains open to “democratic” Belarus as a new member.

Thus, Poland’s foreign policy activities in connection with the conflict in Ukraine should be mainly seen as an attempt by official Warsaw to become an even more powerful political, economic and cultural factor in Central and Eastern Europe. In the defense sphere, Poland seeks to become a connecting element for a significant part of the post-Soviet space due to its own strategic depth. In this sense, her interests largely coincide with the line of the United States of America and Great Britain in this part of Europe, but Paris and Berlin look at her steps with suspicion.

Reader Comments:

Before the start of the conflict in Ukraine, relations between Warsaw and Brussels were very strained due to Polish national laws that did not comply with European ones (a similar situation with Hungary). And so Poland found a way to reconcile with Brussels by rallying behind Russia’s back. Poland also uses the chance to harm Russia through Ukraine. That is, now Poland expects to kill two birds with one stone. Let’s see what will happen next.

What an illusion that Russia is the main problem… As long as there is the US and the UK, no country is free or sovereign. Russia, led by Putin, was a potential partner, but almost all European countries that are chasing the US saw it as a danger and an enemy. I asked my Dutch friend why they are afraid of the Russians, why they do not like them, if they have never been threatened or even planned to. He didn’t know what to say. He says, “probably because of brotherly America.”

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