Poland’s Eastern Border Is Still Open To Invasion
As this article goes to press, revolutionary crowds in the western Ukraine are asserting their independence from Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Western Ukrainian revolutionists seized the regional government buildings in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk. Both these cities have long histories as Polish fortresses. Today they may become strongholds of an independent Western Ukrainian republic.
The independentist insurgents have armed themselves with heavy automatic weapons which they captured from several dozen police stations in the western Ukraine. In Ternopil, approximately 100 miles east of Lviv, autonomists burned down police headquarters. This sets the stage for some parts of the western Ukraine to secede from Ukraine.
Samuel P. Huntington, an influential American political scientist, best known for his scholarly article of 1993 which he subsequently expanded into his book of 1996, THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER, persuasively identified Ukraine as a cleft country, or a country composed of two civilizations, while most countries are of one civilization.
Huntington sees civilizations as defined by religion and identifies seven world civilizations: Western (Latin Christendom), Orthodox Christian, Islam, Sinic (Chinese), Japanese, Hindu, and Latin American, with sub-Saharan Africa based on animism, the belief that supernatural forces reside in animals and objects, as a possible eighth. For Huntington, Ukraine is the world’s most important cleft country, divided approximately into two nearly equal parts along the Dnieper River, which flows through Kiev, and separates the western Ukraine which is part of Latin Western Christendom from the Orthodox eastern Ukraine. Population, agricultural, and industrial production and natural resources make Ukraine very important according to Huntington, and without Ukraine in its orbit, Russian power is much diminished.
Moreover, the Ukrainian language prevails in the western Ukraine, while most speak Russian in the eastern Ukraine. The word ukraine means frontier: that is the land on either side of a border. In this case the border was between the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth, or, Res Publica, and Muscovy, the Rus principality favored by the Mongols who conquered Rus in the Thirteenth Century. The Mongols gave preferential treatment to the Muscovites because they collected taxes for the Mongol overlords from other Rus principalities. The Muscovites emerged as the strongest of the Rus principalities because they were the most brutal and oppressive. By contrast, the culturally Polish Res Publica guaranteed the individual rights of the political nation, that is approximately 15% of the population, and limited the sphere of governmental action. The western Ukraine benefited from this liberty loving tradition rather than Muscovite authoritarianism.
What might happen if Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich decides to use armed force to reassert his authority over areas in western Ukraine controlled by independentists? The first consequence of this policy would be a refugee situation along western Ukraine’s border with Poland. How would this affect Poland?
In November 2005, Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski accosted this kind of question in his keynote lecture at Columbia University’s symposium on “Polish Foreign Policy from Piast Times to the Present”. He wondered what the reaction of Poland’s NATO allies might be if a crackdown against insurgent democrats demanding their rights in Belarus led to an invasion of Poland masked by a refugee situation along Poland’s border with Belarus. At first, it might appear unclear, because of the confused situation created by refugees trying to seek safety by crossing into Poland, that Poland actually was being invaded.
That is why Brzezinski encouraged the Truth and Justice Party government, led by the Kaczynski brothers, that won the elections in October 2005, promptly to set up an independent defensive force outside of NATO to defend Poland’s territory for two-to-three weeks until public opinion in the NATO countries concluded that Poland, in fact, had been invaded. National sovereignty, Brzezinski reminded his auditors, requires national self-defense.
How has the situation changed since Brzezinski delivered his lecture at Columbia in 2005? Poland’s border is still open to invasion from the east. It is an open border to the east just as it was when Poland was a member of the Warsaw Pact and occupied by the Soviet army.
The early November 2013 NATO war games, Operation Steadfast Jazz, demonstrated that the United States, as leading NATO power, was not willing to show its political will to project armed force into the Baltic and northeastern Poland. Collective security and alliances are fine, but Poland needs to meet the contingency of a Russian attack, the theme of Russian war games in that region since 2009. Poland’s leaders should have, but did not, set up the independent defense force Brzezinski called for over eight years ago, and before the Russian invasion of Georgia, which was a masked invasion. Readers recall that fashionable opinion in America and western Europe suspected that Georgia started or provoked the Russian invasion. As is their habit, the Kremlin’s propagandists conflated victims with villains and this duped many in the West.
No longer is there doubt that Putin’s Kremlin is intent on restoring the former Soviet empire in a Muscovite guise. Poland and other countries bordering Russia must take responsibility for their own defense. The only bright spot was the decision announced in late March 2011 by the Tusk Government to move forward with Poland’s nuclear energy program, the first step toward a nuclear arsenal for Poland. As momentum builds in Polish public opinion for an independent international investigation of the Smolensk Disaster of 10 April 2010, the need for Poland to have an independent nuclear force becomes more urgent.
By John Czop