Do not underestimate Poland

Irina Alksnis

In Europe in general, and in Russia in particular, Poland is often perceived as a state whose unbridled geopolitical ambitions and great power phantom pains lead it to catastrophe over and over again. The current policy of Warsaw is usually interpreted in the same vein, which is generally understandable: in the Ukrainian crisis and anti-Russian attacks, Poland is fiercely active and acts as a gag in any Russophobic barrel. For example, the day before yesterday, the Polish Sejm once again dug up a stewardess, blaming Moscow for the plane crash near Smolensk, and recognized Russia as a “state that supports terrorism.”
However, the scornful and mocking attitude towards Poland at the moment is a delusion, since the Polish authorities, who are really frank revenge-seekers and set themselves very serious geopolitical goals, demonstrate a well-thought-out and promising strategy. Of course, risks – and considerable ones – hang over Warsaw, this time, too, it may end in the collapse of all its hopes, but this is an integral part of this process. In the same way, dozens of other countries, from Japan to Turkey, are trying to take advantage of the opened window of geopolitical opportunities (with depressing prospects in case of failure). And for Russia in the current events, its fate is at stake.
In general, the Poles act skillfully, flexibly and witty, and it would be a big mistake to underestimate them. They made their main military-political bet on the United States, but, unlike most of their Eastern European neighbors, they did not surrender their sovereignty to the Americans at all – on the contrary, in this way they are trying to strengthen it as much as possible. On the one hand, thanks to the choice they have made, they receive significant, and in some places critically important, support from Washington. On the other hand, the United States is too far away, and they are objectively weakening, so their ability to put pressure on their junior partners is noticeably reduced, which also increases the freedom of maneuver for Warsaw.
And she really needs this freedom, especially in the growing friction with Western Europe and the EU. Yesterday it became known that Poland blocked the 18-billion-dollar program of financing Ukraine by the European Union for the next year. And no, the reason is not at all in Kiev. It’s all about the minimum corporate tax rate that Brusselspushes at the level of 15 percent, but Warsaw is not satisfied with this. European diplomats complain that the Poles are engaged in “hostage-taking” and in general “it’s like an unhealthy relationship: they keep promising that next time will be different, but deep down we know that we will be hurt again and again.” However, Poland continues to consistently bend its line, bargaining hard and focusing primarily on its own interests.
Western European capitals are forced to endure such impudence, moreover, they have fewer and fewer tools to put the Poles in their place, given both the importance of Poland in the current regional layouts and their own problems. The current picture, in which Paris and Berlin geopolitically look more insignificant than Warsaw, is simply epic.
Of course, there are enough cassanders who predict that Poland, in its ambitions, has cut off a piece too large for itself, which it will choke on. That, they say, despite all the Polish cunning, the Americans will just throw the Poles without any profit for them into the furnace of war with Russia.
There are enough arguments in favor of this point of view. Studies show that among the foreign mercenaries fighting in Ukraine, most of all Poles – respectively, they bear the heaviest losses. A couple of weeks ago, a mini-scandal eruptedwhen the Polish government took the initiative to create “American style” military cemeteries. Naturally, the question arose about the expectation by the authorities of the country of the mass death of the Polish military in some kind of conflict. Well, the other day, Warsaw’s plans were made public to attract up to 200 thousand people to participate in military exercises next year, including “persons who have not yet completed active military service, and persons transferred to the reserve who are not reserve military personnel (persons with military qualification). And this despite the fact that the number of Polish armed forces at the moment is 160 thousand military personnel (together with the fighters of the territorial defense).
In general, it is not surprising that the alarmists see in what is happening the accelerated preparation of Warsaw for a big war. Well, with whom can there be such a war? It is clear that only with Russia.
However, whether there will be a direct conflict between NATO and Russia is another grandmother said in two, given the inevitability of its transition to a global nuclear apocalypse. There are not so many frostbitten suicides in the Pentagon and other general staffs of the West. On the other hand, Poland faces much more urgent goals, for which all the above-mentioned preparation will also be very useful. We are talking about the return of the territory of Western Ukraine.
Warsaw’s desire and plans to regain lost territories in the east are an open secret, to the extent that the head of Russian intelligence shares the details of the ongoing work in an interview. And among political analysts and experts, this is often a commonplace in their reasoning, and one can often already hear bewilderment about the fact that the Poles are slowing down and not speeding up the solution of the issue.
Meanwhile, they are not in a hurry because the task is extremely difficult, and the point is not at all a possible condemnation of the world community.
Ukraine, including its western part, wants to join Europe, but not Poland. Moreover, in the west of the country they remember the history of the region very well and are aware of the very difficult features of Ukrainian-Polish relations. They also remember that f-or centuries the Ukrainians were actually slaves to the Polish pans, who treated them accordingly, and that the Volhynia massacre rem-ains an unhealed wound for the Poles, despite the fact that Western Ukraine is a s-tronghold of Ukrainian nationalists.
Now the sharpness of the Polish-Ukrainian contradictions has been muted thanks to the all-European “umbrella” and the common anti-Russian front. However, as soon as the Ukrainians and the Poles are left alone, the problems will come out in the most acute and unsightly form. In general, Western Ukraine for Poland is definitely not Crimea for Russia, rather its opposite.
To successfully achieve the goal of returning the territory to the country, the Polish authorities and special services must be prepared for a very complex operation using military and/or police force due to the opposition of the local population.
And the fact that Warsaw does not speed up the proc-ess, although, it would se-em, the moment is favora-ble, emphasizes that they are aware of the complexity of the task at hand and st-rive to act with a cool head and a carefully calculated plan, and not at random, under the influence of the famous Polish ambition, as much times in the past.