Prospects for Ukraine’s Division: Poland Tries it Out
Dmitry MININ | 30.10.2014 | WORLD

Prospects for Ukraine’s Division: Poland Tries it Out

Poland's parliamentary speaker Radoslaw Sikorski has been quoted as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to Poland's then prime minister to divide Ukraine between themselves. Sikorski, who until September served as Poland's foreign minister, was quoted telling U.S. website Politico that Putin allegedly made the proposal during the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's visit to Moscow in 2008 as one-to-one meeting took place. Mr. Tusk will become President of the European Council on December 1, 2014. Sikorski did not make the statement at random but rather on purpose and this fact tells a lot. 

It looks like Sikorski made an attempt to test the general reaction to the idea of Ukraine’s partition and simultaneously add the issue of reshaping the borders to the international agenda. 

Sikorski is impudent enough to shift the blame on others as the Warsaw real intentions are ascribed to third parties. «He (Russian President Vladimir Putin) went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lviv is a Polish city and why don't we just sort it out together», Sikorski was quoted as saying.

Note: Radosław Tomasz «Radek» Sikorski is a foreign minister in the cabinet of Donald Tusk. He resigned to become the Marshall of the Sejm in September 2014. Mr. Sikorski is known for his anti-Russian views. In 1986, he travelled to Afghanistan to aid the mujahedeen against the Soviet Union while a war correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph. He took part in combat actions against the Soviet troops in the ranks of mujahedeen forces. This fact was mentioned in one of his books later. 

It did not take much time to reveal that the fact was invented. Poland's former Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, denied that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that their two nations carve up Ukraine. In an interview on Radio TOK-FM on October 24, Tusk said that Putin never suggested to him that Poland and Russia partition Ukraine. «In none of the meetings with President Putin was such a proposition made», the Polish Prime Minister said. «Ukraine was never on the agenda of talks I had with President Putin», Mr. Tusk said adding that the meeting in Moscow in February 2008 was not one-to-one but a group session attended by «four or five people». 

The former Prime Minister firmly denies the Russian President has ever heard anything like that. 

Sikorsky started to wriggle. First he said that he was misunderstood, and then he blamed the whole thing on memory failure. Afterwards there was a walk-back - he retracted his own statements to say that then Prime Minister Donald Tusk allegedly refused to join «another Molotov-Ribbentrop Act» and thus deserves to head the European Council.

The Sikorski statements don’t look like an improvisation produced by Warsaw. After the lie was exposed a Western journalist, a British if I remember it right, persistently asked President Putin at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi what he thought about the hypothetical partition of Ukraine and who Lviv should belong to from «cultural-historic» point of view? There was an obvious intent to make the Russian President give an answer that would match, at least indirectly, what Sikorski had said before. The Atlantic allies are true to themselves: they are pondering the Ukraine’s partition but accuse Russia in advance of entertaining such plans!

The Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. President Putin’s address and Q&A session. 

The President’s answer was given in absolutely clear terms. He said that Russia has no intent to come up with such initiatives and does not support the partition of Ukraine. Indeed, the country’s society, as well as the population of Lviv, is not homogeneous. Lviv is a city that is subject to Polish cultural influence. This is a well-known historic fact. But it does not have to lead to the country’s partition. One should respect the facts and not try to implement the total unification of the Ukraine’s national life, something the Ukraine’s regime is doing as it incites the spread of nationalist sentiments in Warsaw. 

But the word has been spoken and it is out now. No matter the Sikorski’s plans to ascribe his intentions to Moscow have failed, Polish Gazeta Wyborcza writes that Sikorski had to make a walk-back under pressure and the words he said initially should be taken at their face value. The Kremlin harbors evil intent towards Ukraine and would like to offer Lviv to Poland in the form of pickings after a feast. In this case it would have an accomplice and a justification of its actions before the world. It would say that Ukraine is an artificial entity and Poland thinks the same way. Moreover Tusk is supposed to have serious reasons to make Sikorski come under harsh criticism, instead he actually defends him. «This whole story shows that human memory is sometimes fallible», Tusk said. He praised Sikorski as one of the country's most talented politicians of the last 20 years and hopes that one «unfortunate interview» will not end his career. The Speaker of Sejm appears to have done something seen as useful by other Polish leaders. The idea to return the lost lands to Poland, the territory that was illegally taken away, is not new. Polish media outlets get back to the topic regularly. George Friedman, the Chairman of Stratfor, an American global intelligence company, is open and above board as he talks about the Polish Block to dominate Central and East Europe. The only thing that before it was simply not a thing to speak about out loud at high level. Now the time is ripe to change that and speak out one’s mind. True, the appetite is not as great as it used to be. As the words juggling by Sikorski shows, the plans to make Ukraine part of the «Baltic-Black Sea axis» or the federal union of Kiev and Warsaw are limited by the territory that belonged to Poland in the times of Josef Pilsudski (a Polish statesman; Chief of State (1918–22), «First Marshall of Poland» (from 1920), and de facto leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic). Poland started to realize that Ukraine is a real hard burden to shoulder. The resistance of Donbass and the sentiments spread in other parts of Novorossia do not create favorable conditions for polonization of this cultural-historic region. 

The Sikorski statements coincided with the intensification of the European Galician Assembly activities in West Ukraine. The organization is suspected of separatism. It does not say openly it wants the western part of Ukraine to be separated from the country but the stated goal is the development of Galicia and its integration into Europe. The head of organization Vladimir Pavliv believes that three provinces – Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk – are to be united. He says Galicia is the part of the country most ready for European integration. Galicia would also like Transcarpathia and Bucovina to join. 

Note: the European Galician Assembly is a radical public organization that stands for the integration of Ukraine’s three Western provinces into the European Union and their separation from the rest of Ukraine. It believes that people in the west and east parts of Ukraine have different mentality. 

At that the hopes for compatibility of Poland and Galicia may prove wrong. The web of contradictions at this cultural crossroad has a complex and bloody history. The cult of Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in West Ukraine is rejected by Poles as their predecessors suffered in the hands of Bandera-led fighters. There is also a threat of restitution. The former Lviv and other cities dwellers may want their property back. 

Note: Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) is an ideologist and theorist of Ukrainian radical nationalism that viewed Moskali (Russians), Poles and Yids (Jews) as enemies. He was a member of West Ukrainian OUN (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists). Bandera was involved in terrorist activities on Poland’s soil and collaborated with Nazi during WWII. Today he is a hero of Ukrainian nationalists that became parliament (Verkhovna Rada) members as a result of the October 26 election.

Gazeta Wyborcza writes that in Poland tensions are growing among Poles and Ukrainians. A scandal that took place in the East European State Higher School in Przemyśl came into fore. Nine Ukrainian students posted a picture showing them holding a flag of UPA. On October 14, Petro Poroshenko signed a decree proclaiming October 14 to be the day of celebrating Day of Defender of Ukraine, instead of the post-Soviet analogous holiday celebrated on February 23. October 14 is the symbolic founding day of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The Polish national movement perceived this decision as an intent to make the history of UPA «a basis of the mythology of contemporary Ukrainian state». In early October a group of Polish students established a movement called «Stop Ukrainization of Opole University». They accused the management of discrimination in favor of students who are Ukrainians by origin. The attempts of Kiev to get coal for free in Poland were not only rejected but also subject to mockery by Polish media. 

Note: The UPA is the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). In the days of the Second World War it collaborated with Hitler’s Germany, including the Wehrmacht, police and security services. It fought against the Red Army and was involved in extermination of Polish population in the western part of Ukraine. It organized the Volyn massacre when 200 thousand Poles and Jews in Volyn lost their lives. President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree proclaiming October 14 to be the day of celebrating Day of Defender of Ukraine, instead of the post-Soviet analogous holiday celebrated on February 23. Today the insignia and symbols of UPA became part of Ukraine’s state ideology. It was the main cause of the Donbass tragedy where Russians reject fascism. 

* * *

There is a long-term strategy behind the Sikorski statements. Old gentry’s ambitions are still alive among Poles, but it should be remembered that the attempts to implement them in reality have failed. It can happen again if somebody in Poland inspired by the influence from overseas try to reshape the European borders.

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