Yves here. An overview of Poland’s ambitions and predispositions, and what that could mean for the future of western Ukraine. Note that this article oddly steers around the fact that Russia has said it will treat any foreign forces that enter Ukraine as hostile and they will be attacked. Given its long range missile capabilities, Russia could presumably destroy or at worst severely weaken an invasion from Poland, even before getting to the fact that its military is far from battle-hardened. Thus you’d have to assume this sort of possibility plays out only if Russia deems it as in its interest. Of course, this is now an overly dynamic situation, so how Russia looks at options could change as events develop.
By John Helmer who has been the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to have directed his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
On June 13, for the first time since the Russian military operation began in the Ukraine, a detailed Russian intelligence assessment has been published in Moscow of Polish strategy for the future of Ukraine. This follows several weeks of brief statements by Russian security and intelligence officials claiming the government in Warsaw is aiming at an anschluss or union with the “eastern borderlands” known in Poland as Kresy Wschodnie, and in the Ukraine as Halychyna; that’s to say, Galicia.
These Russian claims have been dismissed as propaganda by the Poles. Polish strategy, according to Warsaw sources, is to preserve the Zelensky regime in Kiev and the unified Ukrainian military command — and not to acknowledge the possibility of their defeat by the Russian army east of the Dnieper River.
In this week’s discussion between Vlad Shlepchenko, a military analyst for Tsargrad in Moscow, and Vladimir Kozin, a leading academic attached to the Russian intelligence think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, they consider the scope of the strategic problem which they think the Poles, and behind them the US and NATO, will continue to pose, after the objectives of Phase-1 and Phase-2 of the Russian military operation in the Ukraine have been completed.
Vladimir Kozin is a senior advisor and chief of group working at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which is part of the presidential administration. He is also a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences and holder of several state and diplomatic ranks. Vlad Shlepchenko is a reporter for Tsargrad who specializes in military strategy. His last report of April 30 was translated and can be read here.
Tsargrad is a Moscow-based television channel and internet publication with Russian nationalist and Orthodox sympathies which has been the target of US sanctions and a federal indictment announced in March of this year.
Between opening and closing quotes, the following is a verbatim translation; the maps, captions, links, and sources have been added to amplify the original text which can be read here.
“Vlad Shlepchenko: One of the leaders of the Russophobic movement, as one would expect, has been Poland – a country tormented by phantom pains from its lost power, and with old scores to settle against the Russian world. At the same time, it is Poland which has the greatest chance of becoming the main beneficiary of the impending collapse and division of Ukraine. How far do Polish ambitions reach, and why does satisfying them lay the foundation for a big new war in Europe? Poland is clearly preparing for the return of the territories that were part of it before the Second World War, the so-called “eastern borderlands”. What do you think could be a signal for Warsaw that the moment has come and now it is possible?
Vladimir Kozin: It can be assumed that such a signal will be sent to the current Polish leadership: firstly, when the current Kiev regime ceases to put up armed resistance to the allied armed forces of Russia, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Secondly, if the current Ukrainian president leaves Ukraine, voluntarily relinquishing his position, or if he he is removed for another reason. And thirdly, if Russia and the two states allied with it in the Donbass do not make a clear statement about the inadmissibility of any Anschluss [German for union] of any part of Ukraine by any NATO state under any pretext.
Shlepchenko: Historically, the eastern border territories [Восточных кресов, including present-day Ukrainian, Belarus and Lithuania] were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Maybe God is with them and will let them take it away. After all, why should we be against Poland’s absorption of Galicia — the birthplace of Stepan Bandera and hateful Russophobia?
THE POLISH-LITHUANIAN COMMONWEALTH AT ITS MAXIMUM 17TH CENTURY BORDERS
Kozin: : A new hotbed of tension may arise in this part of Europe on a qualitatively different scale from the current situation, when Ukraine, short of being a full member of the North Atlantic Aliiance, launched its third large-scale aggression against the inhabitants of Donbass. That is, in this new situation there may be an armed confrontation between Russia, as well as the DPR and LPR, against the NATO states. This development of events must by no means be allowed to happen.
Shlepchenko: The Poles have long-standing scores to settle with the western Ukrainians. As a rule, the events of the Volhynia Massacre [1943-45] are recalled in this context. But the Galician peasantry, even in the 19th century, while they were still under the rule of Austria-Hungary, slaughtered the Poles at any opportunity. That is, their conflict is real – it is stable and has endured for centuries. If the annexation of the western Ukrainian territories by Poland happens, how will events develop there? Will the two sides, Galicians and Poles, merge in celebration of their joint struggle against the Russian threat, or will the Poles engage in the denazification of their new compatriots?
Kozin: The first scenario seems to be the most probable one.
ETHNIC CLEANSING & CIVIL WAR BETWEEN UKRAINIANS AND POLES
Source of map with Ukrainian nationalist interpretation, read this from the Euro-Maidan press.
Shlepchenko: If Russia does not halt its advance westward, how far is Poland ready to go? Will they try to take Odessa after they absorb Lvov and Ternopil? Will they form a military-civilian administration in Kiev? How far are the Poles ready to go if their heads don’t butt up against Russian tanks?
Kozin: Most likely Warsaw will follow the path of capturing as much territorial space as possible in Ukraine. Concrete historical examples show that the Poles have repeatedly tried to annex foreign lands by force of arms.
Shlepchenko: Poland does not act on its own. As you noted, it is part of NATO. But NATO itself is far from united. For some in Germany, the development and deepening of the conflict with Russia is causing the loss of cheap energy and the collapse of industry; for some in Italy, and from the conflict with us, too, there are only losses. Who are the main sponsors and drivers of Poland in its current policy?
Kozin: I think that the main sponsors of Poland’s imperial ambitions are the United States and Great Britain, which long ago created a state in the shape of Poland with a stable and unchanging policy of maximal Russophobia.
Shlepchenko: Is this why they are so eager to participate in the supply of American long-range MLRS to Ukraine [Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; for mapping their range in Ukraine, click]?
Kozin: And not only that. The same ambitions are pushing Warsaw to participate in the NATO Baltic Air Patrol program with the provision of Polish combat aircraft for participation in the program and in Baltic airspace for dual-purpose aircraft of this military bloc; that is, aircraft capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. In accordance with the same considerations, Warsaw gives its authority for heavy strategic aircraft of the US Air Force, certified for the delivery of START [strategic offensive weapons] to cross its airspace when moving towards Russia. Poland was guided by the same considerations when issuing its consent for the construction of an operational US missile defense base at Redzikowo, in the north of the country, which will be equipped not only with defensive, but also with offensive types of weapons aimed at our country. In all these cases, the same strategic motive looms large in Warsaw — the creation of an immediate threat to Russia as a whole and to the Russian exclave in the Baltic – the Kaliningrad region — as well as to the Republic of Belarus, territory over which Poland has territorial claims. As for Poland’s involvement in the supply of long-range MLRS from the United States, when they transit through Polish territory to the Ukraine, [the Poles and Americans] may well replace one type of system with a firing range of up to 80 km with a longer range system capable of striking at a range of 300 km.
US GOVERNMENT MAP OF THE REDZIKOWO MISSILE BASE IN THE NATO SYSTEM
For a Polish think-tank assessment of the range and other capabilities of the Redzikowo missile base, read this.
Shlepchenko: OK. Poland’s current hostility is undeniable. Let’s step back a bit and look into the future. Now Polish society, the elites, the intelligentsia and the average citizen are very fond of the idea of reviving the Commonwealth, a state that stretched from sea to sea. In the modern version, this is the concept of the Intermarium [Międzymorze] which is supposed to be implemented through partnership programs with the participation of twelve states. According to this plan, the Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea Initiative (BACHI) was created and is working. It is also called the Three Seas Initiative. How real and dangerous is this challenge?
MAP OF THE THREE SEAS INITIATIVE PROPOSED TO THE EU BY POLAND
For a brief introduction and endorsement by the Royal United Service Institute, a British think tank, click to read.
Kozin: Under the current conditions, as well as in the more distant future, the implementation of the Three Seas Initiative looks impossible due to the deep contradictions that exist, and will continue to exist, between the potential participants of the project with this name.
Shlepchenko: For the sake of argument, let’s assume this project will be implemented, and that in the end, with the exception of Hungary, the Eastern European countries will not retain so much of their sovereignty, while the Big Brothers in Washington and London compel them to give way. The economic benefits from such cooperation are quite real. In the light of this possibility, does it not turn out that the more successfully Poland is acting now, the more reason Moscow has to put it in line for demilitarization in the medium term?
Kozin: Russia is not in a position to carry out the demilitarization of all the NATO member states, and it does not set such tasks for itself. But to strengthen its defense against the military threat of the transatlantic alliance in the form of its combined forward-based forces, which include nuclear missileforces, anti-missile systems and general-purpose forces, Russia is obliged to achieve in the most effective way.
Shlepchenko: We are living in an era of geopolitical shifts on an epochal scale. The united West is split, the paths of the European Union and the United States are diverging more and more. In effect, the UK is waging hybrid war against continental Europe, using anti-Russian sanctions as a tool to strangle the German economy. Russia by itself is trying to break out of the geopolitical corner into which it was driven as a result of the collapse of the USSR.
The demolition of the old structures and blocs is accompanied by the construction of new ones. As part of this process, and for the first time in many centuries, the Eastern European countries have a chance to turn from being the anteroom of Western civilization and the eternally suffering buffer between Russia and real European power into a really significant geopolitical player with its own weight, unique opportunities, and directly injected into the geopolitical alignment of the global centres of power. Whether this scenario is realized or not is a debatable question. However, the fact that the East Europeans are working on its implementation is obvious.
The formation of an effective Three Seas Initiative will become a big geopolitical and economic problem for Russia, China and the Western European states. The new structure, simply by virtue of its geographical location, will try to establish tight control over the transit of Chinese goods and resources from Russia. In the modern system of the world distribution of labour, Europe is one of the two main producers of high technology and science-intensive products, Russia is the largest exporter of raw materials, and China is the main producer of consumer goods. By placing an organization interested in taking rent from transit flows on the transport routes between them, Great Britain and the US would receive an effective tool for direct control of the transcontinental trade and, accordingly, European industry; and for indirect control over the flow of European technologies to Russia and China.
For our country, the implementation of this scenario would mean a return to the situation at the beginning of the reign of Peter the Great. Moscow will either have to cut a window through to Europe again by force of arms, or make extraordinary efforts to develop its own high-tech industries, equalizing the value of economic interaction with European countries, and primarily with German industry. And it is this choice that will determine the paradigm within which events will develop in the next ten to fifteen years.”
NOTE: Tsargrad has appended this qualifying note to the original text. "The assumptions and conclusions expressed in the article are the opinion of the author [Shlepchenko] and may not coincide with the opinion of the Editorial Board and the position of the expert [Kozin], whose judgements reflect exclusively and only his own answers to the questions asked."