Only united can the central European nations survive, but we would not want one nation dominant as, for example, Germany is in the EU.
Do you know what is the Intermarium? This publication aims to describe it nature and potential use as an option to solve Ukraine issue. We do not object to it – the history is clear that only united can the central European nations survive, but we would not want one nation dominant as, for example, Germany is in the EU. We must beware of Germany and Russia – as we are re-learning after Minsk II, but some of us knew from the history.
Of History: what is the Intermarium?
They say that ‘history repeats itself’ and that a ‘leopard cannot change it’s spots’: When the Russian Tsarist regime fell and Greater Muscovy (or what we call Russia today) fell into internal strife it was natural that the former states and people which had once enjoyed independence until subjected to Muscovite over lordship would seek to regain their independence. On 23 June 1917 the Ukrainian People’s Republic was announced and due to the ‘Central Powers’ (the Austro Hungarian Empire and Germany) having been defeated in WW1 the independence of Poland was established in November 1918. Sadly the eastern border of the newly independent Polish state nor any of the borders of the new Ukrainian state had been fixed and although history records that intermarium talks were held a brief Polish – Ukrainian War erupted between 1918/9 over control of the Lviv/Galicia area until in 1920 the Treaty of Warsaw was signed: both a military and economic alliance between the Polish Piłsudski led Government and Ukrainian Petliura Governments. Too late did they realise their common danger…
The new Russian Government, though wearing the red disguise it’s new Soviet rulers, had not changed it spots and was anxious to regain the former territories of Tsarist Empire in the guise of ‘liberation of the proletariat’. Following the Ukrainian People’s Republic declaring independence from Moscow on 25 January 1918 the Russian (Red) Army was in Kyiv by February 9. The position was nigh on hopeless for both the newly independent nations, as well perhaps for the rest of Europe, when the Russian/Soviet offencive reached Warsaw in 1920 only to be defeated by counter attack in a ‘weak spot’ of the long front in what would later be called the ‘Miracle on the Vistula’. It was a miracle, but it was not sufficient to restore the independence of those Ukrainians, many of whom had fought with the Poles in the crucial battles that saved Poland from such sins as the Holodomor. I shall not mention the ‘bad blood’ that was created by final demarcation of the interwar border in the name of the Peace of Riga in 1921 that completely ignored Ukrainian aspirations to independence. Poland survived for a brief period until another ‘partition’ in 1939 and was only free again once the Russian regime again collapsed in 1990/1. Whether or not the collapse of the Russian Soviet state system was greater than that of the Tsarist State is debatable – some would argue that there were real opportunities for a democratic Russia that would join the international system post 1991 and certainly western nations have gone out of their way to encourage this, willfully refusing to believe despite all the evidence that Putin was not a Mafia boss with no inclination to work within any system other than his own kleptocracy but had ‘legitimate concerns’ and really wanted to ‘do business’: indeed the appeasement started long before Ukraine was invaded. Now again, just as the Soviet Russian state in 1918-21 reached out to re-acquire the states that the Tsarist state had subjugated the new Russian ‘Conservative State’ of the neo Tsar Putin once again reaches out to reassert it’s control of those territories that in it’s weakness following the fall of the Soviet system it had to relinquish. Truly the Russian leopard cannot change it’s spots and now Ukraine is fighting it’s own version of the 1919-20 Polish – Soviet War and must perhaps pray for a ‘Miracle on the Dnieper’.
If you wish to go further back to compare the fates of independent states in Poland and Ukraine consider this: The first Polish partition occurred in 1772. Three years later – precisely because the Polish state could no longer interfere – the Zaporizhian Hetmanate was crushed by Russia. No doubt Prince Adam Czartoryski had this in mind when he first proposed a form of renewed Polish – Lithuanian federation but although he was at one time the Tsar’s Foreign Minister naturally no Russian state would seriously grant freedom to a vassal state. Again after WW1 the Polish General and Statesman Piłsudski presented another form of this in the form of his ‘Międzymorze’ – literally ‘between the (Baltic and Black) seas’ – federation, thus the latinised ‘intermarium’. For Piłsudski it was unclear where the eastern Polish border was to be and his war against Ukraine before the too late alliance was the end of Ukrainian hopes for independence and very nearly Poland’s too. Piłsudski’s and Ukraine’s failures to establish an independent Ukraine in 1920 led to Polish independence only lasting 19 years. Yet Piłsudski himself said “There can be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine” and one month before he died recognised his failure saying “My life is lost. I failed to create the free from the Russians Ukraine”.
With the Russian state once again trying to establish a new hegemony by breaking every international law – even it’s own Constitution – in response to Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity it is natural that the intermarium is once again spoken of, Stratfor has been pushing this strongly for some time (since 2010 see) and given the continuing Russian aggression against Ukraine it is perhaps right that we re-examine what advantages an intermarium solution might bring.
First it is important to understand that today, despite last years offer to partition Ukraine with Poland again to reignite the Polish – Ukrainian animosity, the poison chalice was wisely ignored by the Polish Government: Galicia and Lviv is no longer an issue and instead Poland is one of Ukraine’s greatest international supporters. In this regard today the prospects of an intermarium do not face the challenges that Piłsudski faced nearly 100 yrs ago. Considering that it was the insanity of the Polish – Ukrainian War in 1918/9 that destroyed both nations desire for long term independence this places the likelihood of a successful intermarium today at a remarkable, perhaps even critical, advantage.
Secondly let us recognise certain truths: that those closest to Russia are more concerned than those further away. This is natural and we cannot blame Portugal or Spain for being less concerned than Poland or Lithuania – or even privately Belarus. These ‘middle European’ nations have all been subjected to Russian domination in the Soviet period and naturally have no desire to return to it again. The concerns of the NATO allies within Europe are to some extent reflected in their defence spending – Spain’s spending in 2013 being 0.9% of GDP compared to Poland’s 1.9% and Ukraine’s 2.9% according to the World Bank. Naturally the defence expenditure of Ukraine, which is already engaged in a Russian war, and her neighbours who are most worried about the Russian aggression are likely to rise in the foreseeable future while those of other NATO states – such as Spain and Italy etc – are not. One could argue that they should but this not facing the reality that they do not regard Russia as ‘their problem’ as much as those who live closer to Russia are forced to. Therefore the intermarium in some sense represents a group of nations with a primary concern that is not shared by some NATO allies. For Greece the main threat is Turkey, for Italy the North African coast and currently the Islamic radicals in Libya, for the UK possibly an another Argentine attempt on the Falklands etc etc; but for Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, Romania, Moldova (and almost certainly Belarus too) Russia is a primary and existential threat.
Thirdly let us recognise another unwelcome fact; that Ukraine’s membership of NATO is regarded as a threat in Moscow. Nor frankly are the faint hearted European NATO members west of the Polish border likely to ever support Ukrainian membership of NATO if it loses business with Russia or even more frighteningly involved them in a war – albeit with ‘little green men’ in Estonia or Poland. It is one thing for Europe to encourage Ukraine to ‘clean house’ and certainly this must be done but their houses are none too clean either. The SVR is all over London and Berlin as has been reported – without even speaking of the EU Headquarters in Brussels where there is literally no positive vetting or recognition of the threat. That is why Ukraine should not overly rely on the ‘Europe’ as a whole. The EU as it is today is not without corruption itself – for nearly 20yrs it’s accounts have not been signed off by it’s own auditors and as we know where there is corruption there are opportunities for the intrinsically corrupt Russian state to influence people. That is not to say that EU investment in Ukraine would not transform the country as it has done Poland – it most certainly would and Ukraine would end up with alot better economic prospects and a more transparent Governmental system than it has today by membership of the EU. The EU though is primarily a commercial alliance – it started as a coal and steel free trade agreement of six nations – and is even should a ‘European Army’ ever come about for the reasons I have listed above regarding diverging priorities of concern – and the innane need for agreement of 26 nations – it can never be effective. Nor frankly can the EU in it’s current form exist on a long term basis; the euro currency and single interest rate policy for all is economic lunacy, some would argue including Stratfor’s George Friedman for German benefit. We see this struggle being played out now between Germany and Greece precisely over these issues. Now given the general European preoccupation with business and the fact that they are deeply riddled themselves with Russian distortions, their unlikelihood to welcome Ukraine into NATO if it meant loss of business with the kleptocractic mafia that today runs Russia – and Ukraine’s NATO membership would require German and Greek consent – we must face the possibility that other Europeans will not allow Ukraine’s admittance to NATO. To put it in Putin’s terms “Mr Putin also warned Mr Poroshenko not to put too much faith in the EU, saying that Russia could exert its influence and bring about a “blocking minority” among member states.” Should that be the case in future the intermarium may well be the only card on the table for Ukraine’s future security. Indeed set up in the correct manner it may well outlive the EU as we know it today.
Fourthly many of the elements of a proto intermarium are already in place. The Visegrad Group (V4) of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary plan on creating an operational military ‘Battlegroup’ (V4BG) the operational language of which will be English… not unlike the Lithuanian – Polish – Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) which amazingly will also use English as an operational language. The Visegrad group alone disposes of funds to “finance projects which contribute to the democratization and transformation processes in selected countries and regions, especially non-EU member states in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus (the EU’s Eastern Partnership), and the Western Balkans.” and serves as a forum for jointly forming policy within the EU.
Of the Near Future or What would an Intermarium start as?
Piłsudski’s words that “there can be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine” are of course also true in reverse – the Zaporizhian Hetmanate fell after Poland historically and whether the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact would have succeeded in 1939 had Ukraine survived the 1918-20 period is debatable. Certainly the German and Russian dictators would have had much harder time and perhaps the Germans, fearful of attack from the West, would not have chanced the larger task. The failure of one is clearly historically fatal to the other. But the intermarium must be more than just Ukraine and Poland if it is to be viable and engender a new middle European renaissance that so many of us desire and our people deserve.
So let us start with what countries an intermarium might compose of. Well clearly Ukraine as Ukraine would require a security guarantee should be it excluded from NATO and also Poland as the Poles do not want Russia on their southern border as well as in Kaliningrad in the north. Romania and Poland have had a standing Strategic Partnership since 2009 that has recently this has developed more arguably because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Lithuania, with their noble almost Thatcher like President Dalia Grybauskaitė would seem certain to join and the Slovaks, Czechs and Hungarians, despite Orban having been bought for $10 on a nuclear deal and the current Czech President having, some say, been provided by funds by Russia in his Presidential campaign are likely to have populations that recognise the threat in the longer term. Bulgaria and the other Baltic states are other potential members as they clearly share the same primary security concerns, nor should we forget the Nordic states – neither Sweden nor Finland are NATO members. Equally the other Slavonic states in the Western Balkans may welcome a ‘third way’. We cannot yet say who may wish to join but clearly the welcome should be left open – even to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Now let us take a moment and understand clearly what is proposed here for Ukraine firstly. Ukraine would be engaged in alliance with her neighbours (and perhaps others) some/all of which are NATO members. Therefore for Russia to attack Ukraine in an intermarium alliance would provoke a response from Poland, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria etc and for Russia to win that war would involve them attacking NATO nations thus drawing in Germany, France, UK, USA, Canada etc etc… a war they could never hope to win conventially: nuclear weapons stand off, Cold War #2, would occur again. I think this could therefore a non NATO security structure to assure Ukrainian sovereignty within the international laws. If Russia is truly concerned about NATO in Donbass and Crimea then again this solves the problem – Ukraine would only be allied to neighbouring NATO countries.
However the Russian concession must be that Ukraine can form whatever economic alliances it chooses, in the current moment that being the EU. In 1990 the GDP of Poland and Ukraine were roughly equal; today Poland’s GDP is more than three times of that Ukraine – in 2014 Polish GDP was $517.54 billion compared to Ukraine’s 177.43 billion yet Ukraine has better agricultural lands and other natural resources and it’s people are just as well educated. We must recognise that the investment that Ukraine needs to catch up with her western neighbours cannot be done by any intermarium nations alone – the amounts required, even initially, are too much for any single nation to loan themselves. The much spoken of Ukrainian ‘donors conference’ also requires the Ukrainian Government to commit to a detailed schedule of reform which sadly nobody has yet been tasked to do. Following a donors conference a special Minister of Inward Investment may be useful so those unfamiliar with Ukraine have ‘go to person’ to help with any questions or to help clear bureaucratic obstacles. George Soros‘ comments: “There are concrete investment ideas, for example in agriculture and infrastructure projects. I would put in $1 billion,” should encourage other investors as well as the Ukrainian people. Ukraine could literally be the business investment opportunity of the decade provided the reforms are followed through and the war ends. If the EU lasts great but I would not bet on it myself and the development of a ‘middle European Confederation’ would be wisdom in the space of time provided by a peace.
One question that is consistently raised in regard to an intermarium is Belarus and it is a good question. Make no mistake the dictator of Belarus is today scared stiff; he fears both a Belarussian ‘Maidan’ and a Russian absortion of his small kleptocracy. It is fundamentally in Ukraine’s and her neighbours interests to liberate Belarus as peacefully as can be done. The economic potential of Belarus is less than that of Ukraine but strategically to Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states it is priceless. This however takes some planning – much of the Belarussian energy industry is owned by Gazprom and other Putinesque proxy companies – yet the Ukrainian example of reverse flow gas from western neighbours provides a valuable lesson. Belarussians have died in Maidan and in the war in Donbass fighting for Ukrainian liberty – and in the end for the liberty of Europe – they must not be forgotten and our debts to their people rapayed. Belarus long term needs liberation from both her own mini autocrat but from Russia also. Should the war end in Ukraine and Crimea be returned should we forget Belarus? I would not forget any nation that suffers from the Russian tyranny myself.
So in the near term the intermarium would be merely an alliance to provide Ukraine with a security guarantee in case of future Russian aggression. But what if Ukraine reforms and grows it’s economy as Poland did – if not faster as it has more natural assets? The whole region would flourish and respond resulting in not just a Kievan renaissance, but a middle European one. Within this close group of nations who have all experienced the Russian tyranny so long and so often can we not hope for some form of conjoined path to freedom? The Statesmen of ‘middle Europe’ may regret it if do they not take the intermarium option at this unique opportunity when all are threatened by a common foe.
Richard Drozdowski for EMPR