It has been nearly a year since 31 Mar 2015 when EMPR published first ‘Intermarium’ article, and thank you (dziękuję bardzo) to all the Polish and other commenters who offered views on it yet the world has not stood still since and many developments have occurred since which give both hope and cause for concern in regard to Ukrainian and Central and Eastern European (CEE) Security; in short regarding precisely those issues an ‘intermarium’ alliance must solve and overcome.
Of The Now: The Current Problems
Firstly, let us understand that the last years terrorist and criminal tragedy in Paris. President Hollande’s visit to Moscow on November 26 to discuss an ‘anti terror alliance’ represents a threat. Some no doubt will recall Putin’s promise to the then French President Sarkozy to withdraw from South Ossetia having threatened to ‘hang Saakashvili by the balls’. It is hardly appropriate to discuss ‘anti terror alliance’ with a regime that has a history of practicing terrorism on its own people (some may recall Ryazan, Litvinenko, Anna Politskaya others only have heard of Nemtsov) has done so against Georgia, Ukraine and Estonia (let us not forget the cyber attack of 2007 or the abduction of Eston Kohver last year), Sarkozy saved Saakashvili’s balls perhaps but nothing more. Did they not even threaten Denmark with nuclear weapons last year? Any concessions to Moscow by France regarding Ukraine without Ukrainian participation must be rejected out of hand and must result in the end of the ‘Normandy Format’ as France would have proved it can no longer be trusted. Elsewhere we see ‘North Stream 2’ is being supported by some Germans on Article 36 exemption grounds and this would deny Ukraine and Slovakia a total of €2.6bn (Ukraine €1.8bn) in transit fees. Nor, of course, does it favour Poland… when Radek Sikorski compared North Stream 1 to the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact back in 2009 everyone laughed. Are they still laughing? What does ‘European Unity’ mean to the Germans if North Stream 2 is allowed to go through? What would it say about EU rules? How then could the ‘Normandy Format’ of Ukrainian – Muscovite talks continue? What then of Minsk 2? Even now the attacks against Ukrainian Forces, who are the frontline of not just the Intermarium but of Europe, increase while Lavrov has long been urging the delay of Minsk 2 implementation urging that it be put be back while Muscovy does nothing to fulfill it’s obligations. M Le President Hollande obligingly agreed with the Mafia Lawyer Lavrov saying ‘It’s therefore likely, even certain now, that — since we need three months to organise elections – we would go beyond the date that was set for the end of Minsk, that is to say Dec.31, 2015.’ This represents a breach of Minsk 2 of course endorsed by one of it’s guarantors! Of course, those of us who understood the fraudulent events at Minsk never expected Moscow to keep it’s word. Nor should we expect any great Moskow – Ankara confrontation over the Turkish shooting down of a Muscovite Su-24 confrontation to rally our ‘partners’ or would be allies to the west. Ukraine must learn to think for itself and take the course best suited to it’s long term security. The same, sadly is true for other NATO members in the Central and European area as the US ‘pivots to the Pacific’. It is well over time that this ‘Normandy Format’ ended. Since the Budapest Memorandum has been breached the signatories could insist that they are included. Why haven’t they? The European Union could insist it be included, but does not… why? Instead, we have enticements to two nations which are not directly threatened while those threatened must rely on these ‘Elder Europeans’ to barter for their own interests perhaps at our expense. These are our homelands and we must learn to make these decisions ourselves. Relying on others long term is a recipe for failure and defeat.
I raise these initial problems, others I will mention later, to raise the real prospect that CEE nations (or intermarium/międzymorze/isthmus/ABC or whatever name you wish to use) cannot entirely rely on our Western European ‘allies’ not to deal with Moscow at our expense. While we can hope that our allies and friends do not betray us this time ‘hope’ is not the basis for a realistic long term foreign policy going forward. We must act and act with some urgency. The next temptation from Moscow, should this fail, to those in the West will only be greater. There can be no doubt that the Muscovite imperial appetite is growing and their enticement policy to our Western European partners is clear. How long before they succeed? I do not expect Frau Merkel to fall for it, but she will not be there forever. How long can we sit over fine details? Of course only God can say, but I would say something is better than nothing; it may not be perfect, but it makes a statement and often that can act as a deterrent in itself.
The (relatively) new President Duda and the remarkable Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość or PiS) majority in the Polish Parliament/Sejm marks a substantial leap forward for CEE alliance supporters. Before his election Duda said ‘I am considering the idea of creating a partnership bloc stretching from the Baltic to the Black and the Adriatic seas. The state is strong when it is surrounded by allies – is also an element of increasing strength.’ Visiting Bucharest last year President Duda said ‘that Central European policy can be much broader than the one within the Visegrad Group before engaging in talks with NATO’s deputy secretary general Alexander Vershbow, the presidents of Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, as well as the speaker of the Czech Parliament’. It remains to be seen if the new Polish Government can make good on President Duda’s ideas instead on concentrating on its perceived domestic opponents.
The first and foremost commitment of the Polish Government in line with its CEE alliance outlook must be to Ukraine; it is the front line in the literal sense. While the French and Germans speak about ‘European Values’ and busily compromise not only Ukraine and their eastern ‘partners’ but ultimately their themselves, Ukrainians die for these principles on a daily basis. As Churchill said of the appeasers before World War 2 ‘So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.’ From Polands direct strategic point Ukrainians are dying to keep the Muscovites away from Poland’s south eastern border. How would Europe in general like 10 or 15 million Ukrainian refugees and the surrendering of the most fertile land on the planet? The delivery of US anti mortar radar to Ukraine should prompt other CEE states to give Ukraine their old Soviet military parts and spares if nothing else. But much more is needed for Intermarium, which I shall discuss in a later article. If you do not support the front line – as Piłsudski tried to do in 1919/20 perhaps over hastily entering Kyiv – you fall into a ‘gaps problem’; both the Suwałki gap AND the wider Lviv/Lwow gap, precisely as Piłsudski did. Ukraine is stronger today, but still needs support and not just military support. In the end the Polish choice is whether to again fight on the Vistula/Wisła and pray for another miracle like that of 1920 in which many Ukrainians fought with Poles to achieve, or help Ukraine defend themselves as a partner. Vistula or Dnieper? The choice should be clear from a defensive perspective, but even more in Ukraine’s economic potential as trade partner. In 1990 Polish and Ukrainian GDP was roughly equal, in 2014 Polish GDP was around $548bn and Ukrainian GDP $131bn. It is in Poland’s direct economic interests to ensure that Ukrainian reforms are seen through and that Ukraine prospers as a strong trading partner. Poland would be the principle benefactor of a prosperous Ukraine able to buy Polish goods and be play a part in joint projects, including defensive procurement and production projects, the low value of the Hryvnia makes production costs in Ukraine substantially lower than elsewhere in Europe at present.
Which brings me to the Belarus ‘problem’ which is wrapped up in the ‘Suwałki gap problem’ as well as the ‘Lviv/Lwow gap problem’. The simple fact is that Baltic States are indefensible in the case of Muscovite aggression without solving these problems. One should note the Belorussian National Front (BNF) association with PiS, their words regarding the ‘renewal of the Commonwealth’ after the PiS victories are the same as the Belorus Popular Front of before. The Muscovite request for an air base in Belarus, so far rejected, should it be accepted closes in particular the ‘Suwałki gap’. This is a very serious and real threat to NATO in the event of an invasion or ‘little green men uprising’ in the Baltics if Muscovite land to sea missiles and submarines are based in Kaliningrad, as they are known to be. How would NATO get troops through? This has been compared to the old ‘Fulda Gap’ of the Cold War. There are several possible solutions to the ‘Suwałki gap problem’ as well as the ‘Lviv/Lwow gap problem’ but the foremost and best solution is the liberation or winning over of Belarus which solves both problems.
Professor Grigory Ioffe, and others, praise the ‘stability’ of Belarus, Professor Ioffe says; “Like a steady ship, this order resists fickle winds, something that Belarus’s southern neighbor had failed to achieve since gaining independence—a lesson that the Belarusian electorate will not likely ignore” while quoting my earlier article on this subject. Others have asked how is Belarus to be won over to our side and so on and this at first appears a difficult question until one takes into account the nature of the Mafiosi kleptocracy now in power in Moscow. Let us make no mistake here, Belarus is NOT threatened from the West; it is threatened overtly and in rhetoric by the Moscow regime. Recently there has been talk of a ‘union state’ and a ‘conference’ on this matter. The proposed air base, currently rejected by the Lukashenka regime, is but a first ploy and many, sadly including myself, forsee ‘little green men’ appearing in Belarus. How do we win Belarus? We support them when the Mafiosi kleptocracy attacks if needed. We too can do ‘little green men’ tactics if necessary. People have asked “Can you buy Lukashenka” and while the truth is probably “yes” you cannot buy Belarus without expecting a reaction from Moscow and while I would not wish Belarus to suffer a ‘Ukrainian experience’ their future liberty and prosperity may demand that they are prepared to die for it if necessary or become absorbed into a deeply corrupt Mafiosi state that preaches a form of national chauvanism little short of the Third Reich, who’s Minister Goebells Putin has praised as ‘talented man’ (http://www.timesofisrael.com/putin-calls-goebbels-a-talented-man-at-meeting-with-rabbis/). Realistically Belarus is facing only threats from the East; we must offer cooperation and support but for conditions of reform. The suspension of EU sanctions due to the ‘free and fair’ Presidential elections and the release of political prisoners is a start. Lukashenka or not Lukashenka matters less than reform or no reform, corruption or fighting against it, free trade and international investment or stagnation. These are issues we must try to engage the Belarus people with – for our mutual benefit. Several months ago there was a Belarus football match where the crowd carried a banner which in Polish means “Za naszą i waszą wolność” (‘For our freedom and yours’), the saying of old exiled Poles. Here indeed is a motto and support for a CEE alliance and I am sure that Belarus can be won. But again, these matters need the closest Polish and Ukrainian partnership to be able to achieve for the common good of both as well as the Belarusian people.
Romania or Hungary/Visgrad
It is not commonly known that many Moldovans have Romanian citizenship following a law passed in 1991 in Romania. This gives Romania a direct responsibility to look after its dual nationals in Moldova. This year there have been demonstrations in Chisnau in favour of union with Romania, the largest being on 16th May. Poland and Romania have for some time had a ‘Strategic Partnership’ agreement dating back to 2009. Until recently Ukraine – Romania relations were frosty at best, but over the last two years a new spring appears to have arrived as both nations share similar concerns. This year the first official visit of a Romanian President to Kyiv for seven years occurred; common enemies make fast friends. Much more could be done to improve relations between Ukraine and Romania including the resolution of the Transdniestrian pseudo state problem and the joint development of energy reserves as well as trade and some recognition of Romanian population in Ukraine. Both Kyiv and Bucharest need to resolve these problems so a firm partnership can be formed for our common good.
The Hungarian issue, or more precisely the Orban issue, impedes on the Visegrad alternatives. This requires a little history: In February this year Putin visited Budapest and signed a controversial nuclear deal (Paks ll) with the Hungarian Government headed by Orban, part of which was a $10.8 billion loan – or incentive as some might call it – to Hungary/Orban, the details of this deal are secret. It is currently a matter a contention at the EU level with an investigation launched regarding the legality. Ukrainians will no doubt recall the Yanukovych – Putin deal of December 2013 and the gas price agreement, which changed suddenly, and the promise of $10bn in loans, mostly into Yanukovych’s pocket of course and which Ukraine is now required to repay $3bn of. It is not hard to understand the EU’s skepticism over this secretive nuclear deal with Orban. Even Hungarians understand this; ‘This Paks deal is camouflage,’ said Zoltan Illes, a former lawmaker in the ruling Fidesz party who was a state secretary for the environment until 2014. ‘This is a financial transaction, and for the Russians this is buying influence.’ Those who understand Putin’s rise and the ‘Mafiosi/Kleptocracy State’ regime, he has since created will know the signs as we saw them played out back in February in Hungary with Orban. Is Hungary a reliable partner for a CEE alliance? This question must be resolved fast by both Ukraine and Poland, and Romania. If the Hungarian Government will veto any enlargement of the Visegrad organisation, as currently constituted then either Visegrad or some other ‘format’ that can include aspiring CEE alliance nations must swiftly be conceived with the basis Warsawa – Kyiv – Bucharest and others who may share our concerns and wish to share in our potential. Clearly the Baltics nations come first to mind, but other both north and south as well as the Czechs and Slovaks in between have a clear interest to be associated with any ‘Greater Visegrad’ or whatever political format the incorporation of both Ukraine and Romania and others requires and close consultations must be held at all times with all potential partners that they not be offended. Mostly, though the Hungarian stance must be tested before the ‘format’ is decided and with the new Czech Presidency in 2016 and their ambitious military plans it is to be hoped this will be done. If the Huns will stand with others, they must be welcomed, if they refuse to condemn the aggressor and continue to conspire with him clearly they are lost (at least temporarily) and any ‘Greater Visegrad format’ with them included would be a mistake. If we wait for the Orban to realize their mistake, it may be too late already and clearly a decision must come next year about which ‘format’, political, economic and military the CEE alliance will take. We need Romania and Hungary long term, but Romania should be more important to Ukraine so a Warsawa – Kyiv – Bucharest alliance poses an alternative to those who might block Lithuanian, Romanian and Ukrainian (and others) entry into the ‘Greater Visegrad format’. If Visegrad is paralyzed by the current Hungarian Government the new CEE ‘format’ must be speedily resolved, a Kyiv – Bucharest – Warsawa configuration as a basis would be the strongest alternative to a ‘Greater Visegrad’ and for this Ukrainian – Romanian resolution and cooperation is needed just as much as Ukrainian – Polish resolution of historical issues: The past is dead, it cannot be changed but can only educate us about what mistakes we should seek to avoid. We can, however, forgive and commit to the future and so build a greater future in partnership together that our children may live in friendship, peace, freedom, security and prosperity together. We cannot change the past, but can make the future.