To start with, let’s point out that there is much to admire about the current Polish government under the Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) party. It is socially and culturally conservative (prolife, pro-family); opposed to the non-European, largely Islamic, migratory invasion threatening the demographic replacement of native, Christian Europeans (and which may already be irreversible in some countries, like Sweden); and takes a strong patriotic stand for Polish sovereignty against the Moloch in Brussels. The European Union (EU) even threatens sanctions over absurd claims that the PiS’s strictly domestic judiciary and media practices violate “democratic freedoms.”
In contrast, “democratic freedoms” evidently weren’t much of a concern in the corrupt EU establishment’s (now hopefully failed) attempt to block the validly elected populist coalition in Italy. Nor are Europe’s “democracy” champions troubled by the arrest, muzzling, and peremptory sentencing – and possible death sentence – of activist-journalist Tommy Robinson in the United Kingdom. What the EU calls “democracy” of the elites and actual citizens’ democracy clearly are two very different things. The voters’ choice is only valid when it delivers items on the EU’s anti-traditional, anti-Christian, anti-national, anti-human values, like the tragic abortion referendum outcome in Ireland.
In such a context, any European government that so upsets the mandarins in Brussels as much as the PiS in Warsaw does must have something good going for it. Together with the other three members of the Visegrád Group – and especially of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, which if anything is even more of a bête noir of the neo-liberal, Sorosite Eurocrats than Poland is – Poland is at the cutting edge of the nationally, religiously, and culturally based Euroskeptic movement, one which now includes the populist coalition in Austria.
Bravo! Let’s give credit where credit is due.
But seemingly alone of the countries of the Visegrád plus one (V+1), Poland appears unduly attached to an outsized, anachronistic sense of its weight in continental affairs. This is combined with a visceral, unselfconscious antipathy towards Russia and, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, towards Germany (which in practice means towards the EU itself, a “Fourth Reich” that has succeeded economically where Berlin had twice in the past failed militarily). However painful the nostalgicphantom limb pain of a once-great power whose borders formerly reached to Smolensk, encompassed all of Belarus and much of Ukraine, and which even briefly occupied Moscow during the Time of Troubles, such antipathies are not useful today for anyone – certainly not for Poland, nor for the rest of Europe.
An early inkling that Poland would seek to punch above its weight in prosecuting its anti-Russia vendetta was in February 2014 (prior to PiS’s accession to power) when then-Foreign minister Radosław Sikorski stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his German and French counterparts in brokering a political compromise between Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the Maidan opposition. Of course, neither Poland, nor Germany, nor France (nor their American backers) murmured a peep of protest when the opposition proceeded over the space of a few hours to trash the arrangement, which was little more than a sly ruse for the seizure of total power that sent Yanukovych fleeing for his life. While for many Poles the anti-constitutional regime change in Kiev may have been a gratifying jab at Russia it also empowered Ukrainian nationalists who honor as heroes criminal perpetrators of the butchery of many tens of thousands of Polish victims of the massacres in Volhynia, the Lublin region, and Eastern Galicia from 1943 to 1945 by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera faction (OUN-B) and its armed wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
But with the PiS in power, Poland’s bid to again play with the big boys shifted into high gear. Key to this is a special relationship with Washington, which Warsaw sees as a powerful counterweight to its immediate neighbors. While other manifestations will surely follow, at the moment “playing the American card” involves two key initiatives:
1. Against the EU: Warsaw is positioning itself as the critical mediator between the United States (Poland’s friend) and the EU (Poland’s antagonist) with respect to US threats to hit European companies with secondary sanctions on trade with Iran following American withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action); and
2. Against Russia: Warsaw has offered the US up to two billion dollars in support for a permanent American base in Poland.
Regarding the Iran sanctions, because of the need for unanimity in any EU-wide countermeasures, Poland has a lot of leverage. While EU midgets like Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Federica Mogherini talk a brave fight against US sanctions, the outcome at the EU and in European capitals is very much in doubt. The US will try to pick off one or another of the top three European governments (United Kingdom, France, or Germany) to cave to the US position, then expect the others to follow. The almost certain pullout of the French company Total from Iran is a good indicator of how things may go.
Moreover, since standing firm against Washington’s threats requires solidarity with Russia (as well as with China) the US will rely on the most anti-Russian members – not only Poland but the Baltic states and maybe Romania – to block any concerted resistance. The US will count on the leading role to be played by Poland, which, as noted above, already has its other problems with Brussels. Washington will expect Warsaw to jump at the chance to not only poke the EU (and Germany) in the eye but Russia too.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that European resistance to reimposition of Iran sanctions is not just a test for the EU institutionally (in which case, who cares) but is a critical measure of whether European countries individually as well as collectively can reassert their sovereignty against the hegemon across the Atlantic. At this juncture, Poland appears ready to help Washington maintain dominance over our European satellites.
How that helps Poland is less than clear. Certainly it is understandable, perhaps even praiseworthy, for the PiS government to want to deliver a sharp riposte to Brussels for its threats against Poland over migration policy and meddling in Poland’s internal constitutional affairs. But a binary identification of “Brussels bad, Washington good” doesn’t logically follow. This relates not just to interests but values. US elites overwhelmingly share the postmodern, post-Christian values of Western Europe. As Patrick Buchanan observes: “A scholarly study sums it up: ‘The statistical trends in religion show two separate Europes: the West is undergoing a process of secularization while the post-socialist East, de-secularization.’ One Europe is turning back to God; the other is turning its back on God.” (Ironically, along with Poland and Hungary, one of the primary examples of post-communist Christian revival is Russia – something many Poles might not choose to acknowledge.)
Thus, despite the Trump administration’s blowing up the US relationship with the EU over the Iran nuclear deal, there is still more that unites than divides the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels with its American counterpart – no, not Trump himself, who was legitimately elected, but the Deep State oligarchy that has been attempting to overthrow him. Consider the contrast: Poland now has indicated its willingness to torpedo concerted EU resistance to Washington’s demand for new sanctions on Iran (plus secondary sanctions on Europe) just as Brussels (with likely American involvement, according to Tom Luongo) tried to torpedo formation of a new, right-left populist Italian government that would have been a powerful partner for V+1. Why? Because a Five-Star/Lega government might pull the plug on sanctions against Russia.
Even more momentous than what Warsaw chooses to do about Iran-related sanctions is the offer of an American base in Poland, which creates a positive and direct danger to the Polish people. Poland needs neither an American base (nor the American “defensive” missiles set to be deployed there) for the simple reason that there is no military danger to Poland, neither from “Russian aggression” nor from a non-existent Iranian missile threat.
Rather, these measures themselves run the risk of creating a menace where there wasn’t one before. As Washington and our NATO satellites continue to step up pressure on Russia – through “forward basing” in the East, arming Kiev with Javelin missiles, naval and aerial probing in the Black and Baltic seas – the possibility of a mishap that leads unintentionally (one hopes it would be unintentional) to hostilities goes up accordingly. (We should also add US provocations against Russia in Syria.) In that case, any US presence would be of zero value as military protection to Poland, but it would ensure that Poland would be a primary target if war were to break out.
Moscow warns that a permanent US base in Poland would be a violation of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which states that “in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.” NATO has already moved to skirt this provision by claiming that “force rotation” in Poland and the Baltics and the Nordic region is neither “permanent” nor “substantial.” Moreover, as the neoconservative-dominated think tank Heritage Foundation asserts, due solely to Russian actions in its Near Abroad “the ‘current and foreseeable security environment’ in Europe has changed dramatically since 1997. This alone justifies permanently basing NATO troops in Central and Eastern Europe.”
In other words, the Founding Act is a dead letter. That would have to include its key assertion: “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries.” An adversarial stance towards Russia is the heart of the so-called “Three Seas Initiative” – lauded by US President Donald Trump during his 2017 visit to Warsaw – which seems nothing more than a warmed-over version of earlier Polish effort to isolate Russia from Europe, Józef Piłsudski’s “Prometheism” and “Intermarium” initiatives.
Unless Poland intends to levitate itself to some other place in Europe, even with America’s favor Poles will have to contend with the fact that they have Germany on one side and (in effect, not really counting Belarus) Russia on the other. These are the neighbors God gave the Poles, with which they can be friends or enemies.
With a looming confrontation between the US and the EU over trade and Iran sanctions, and with ties to Russia locked in a deep freeze, there are those in Washington happy to use Poland as a cat’s paw against both. How that is in Poland’s interest is another matter.