Since it became clear that Joe Biden was going to be certified as the President-elect it’s been clear that Poland would become a major story. Poland is one of the bad boys of the European Union and with the return of The Davos Crowd’s favorite American, Barack Obama, to the White House all of Poland’s problems within the EU would inensify.
With Nordstream 2 nearly complete, time is rapidly running out for Andrej Duda and his Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Last week I discussed Hungary and whether Prime Minister Viktor Orban had the cards to play in resisting the EU’s pressure there. Orban’s a skilled player who has performed admirably in the face of EU intransigence on his sovereigntist agenda there. Orban always knew he had to balance the great powers around him while still maneuvering Hungary where he knew it needed to go.
Poland hasn’t faired as well. Andrew Korybko hits the nail on the head in a recent post stating:
It also puts the Central European leader in a disadvantageous position after having irresponsibly formulated its foreign policy on the expectation that former US President Trump would win re-election and continue reshaping European geopolitics in a manner that’s in close alignment with Polish interests.
While Trump was in power Poland became increasingly strident in its opposition to both Germany and Russia thinking that U.S. policy would continue long into the future. It was a bad bet. If anyone in Poland’s leadership actually spoke with Vladimir Putin occasionally, even if just for tea, they would have remembered that the U.S. is “Not Agreement Capable.”
This isn’t just hindsight talking. This was all said during Trump’s presidency. Poland’s leadership tried to have their cake and eat it too. Thinking Trump had their backs they could indulge their Russophobia while concurrently opposing Nordstream 2 and flex its sovereignty against Germany, even, like Hungary, inviting an Article 7 censuring by the EU.
The more prudent approach, which myself and others said at the time, would have been to emulate Orban, finding ways to antagonize the EU but only so far while opening up relations with Putin and Trump. Orban showed far more strategic vision than Duda in this respect. He understood his position well by shoring up Hungary’s energy and trade positions.
Unfortunately, without an aligned Poland, Hungary can only do so much.
Poland, on the other hand, is now at the mercy of the Germans because of Nordstream 2 who will now control gas flows from it throughout the European pipeline network. I talked about this back as far back as 2017:
Germany gets what it wants. And it wants to be able to use gas delivered by Nordstream 2 to put political pressure on Poland and the rest of the Visegrad Nations.
This is the real crux of the issue for Poland. And they are free to entertain Trump’s offers to buy LNG from U.S. sources for three times the price of Russian piped gas. Poland can help themselves by siding with Russia over the separatists in the Donbass, but they won’t because the Law and Justice Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. neoliberal and neoconservative interests.
Sure, the Poles got a small win recently when the European Kangaroo Court of Justice ruled in their favor over Gazprom’s usage of the Opal pipeline, but that’s, at best, cold comfort.
The play for Poland has always been to reach out to Russia rather than continue to think they can stand up to Germany from within the very political structure set up to enhance German power and influence in every way, the EU. They welcomed Trump’s promises of expensive U.S. LNG and resisted Visegrad solidarity. Because of their opposition to Nordstream 2 they were easily manipulated into helping NATO destabilize Ukraine and Belarus while setting themselves up to be slaughtered the moment Davos got rid of Trump and re-established the link between D.C. and Brussels.
And now, as Korybko astutely points out, PiS is facing increasingly stiff competition from none other than former President Donald Tusk who was a miserable failure while President of the European Council. Davos is making its move to reassert its dominance over Poland.
This leaves PiS in the unenviable position politically of having no good options. Korybko’s solution is a non-aggression pact with Russia to assuage the fears of Russian military advances because at this point Poland is quickly running out of options.
It’s unclear exactly what the terms of an informal Polish-Russian “non-aggression pact” in Belarus and Ukraine would look like, but it could be modeled off of the much larger one that the US and Russia are also informally attempting to negotiate after last month’s Biden-Putin Summit. What’s most important is that their threat assessments of one another, influenced as they are by their suspicions of each other’s strategic motives, gradually decline to the point where a so-called “new normal” can set in for more responsibly regulating their regional competition.
The biggest issue for Poland at this point is the loss of gas transit through Ukraine. Their fears over this and the regular pronouncements recently from Russia about Ukraine’s historical relationship to Russia make that threat more and more likely over the coming years. The government in Kiev is becoming desperate. President Zelensky’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel is focused on Germany paying Ukraine reparations for Nordstream 2.
I’m inclined to agree with some of that, since Merkel was part of the group that began Ukraine’s troubles with the accession agreement to the EU which was blocked by Putin and set all of this nonsense in motion over the past eight years. And after breaking Ukraine Merkel has shown zero interest in trying to help it back to its feet.
So, Ukraine will likely get nothing from Merkel of substance now that she has, for all intents and purposes, washed her hands of the country and she’s as lame-duck as lame-duck gets. All of this is really just theatre at this point. Ukraine will be a staging area in Eastern Europe to launch color revolutions across the region, including Poland and continued aggression against Belarus. This was always the fallback position of Davos and U.S. neoconservatives.
To me, the real solution is to sit down with both Zelensky and Putin and work out a future which ensures gas transit and delivery between all three. From everything he’s said and intimated, Putin is more than happy to make that deal. A strong and vibrant eastern Europe is the perfect buffer between the EU and Russia.
So, like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Poland’s leadership has a real choice, will they finally see their board position for how very weak it is and finally reach out to potential allies (Hungary, Czech Republic) and non-combatants (Russia) and start shoring up its position?
Or will they continue to screech into a whirlwind of their own making, choosing to wallow in their (admittedly justified) past grievances with their neighbors rather than figure out which of them is the one most likely targeting them for destruction. Hint for Duda…. it ain’t Putin.
The irony is that Poland is still worried about the communists from the East when the real commies are rising in the West.
Like Hungary and the Czechs, Poland still has its own currency. They’ve been recent buyers of gold to shore up the Zloty. There is a real opportunity for all of these countries, along with Serbia, to form a strong economic bloc making them a destination for capital rather than seen as cannon fodder in the EU’s forever war with Russia, which isn’t over, it’s just on hold for now.
Because if they don’t see this point soon, the window of opportunity for all of Eastern Europe to break the EU wide open closes.