This for all practical intents and purposes pretty much accomplishes the exact same thing that a military operation would have, if not much more, and through obviously peaceful means too. Their people will be able to live and work freely in one another’s territory while receiving “education, medical care, (and) social guarantees”, which is pretty much what those within the de facto confederated Schengen Zone can already do.
Poland has yet to commence a military operation in Ukraine like Russian spy chief Naryshkin warned last month might happen sometime in May under the cover of its large-scale drills along that country’s border and under the pretext of dispatching peacekeepers. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that he was completely wrong either since the Polish and Ukrainian leaders’ speeches at the Verkhovna Rada on Sunday very strongly suggest that these two countries decided to merge into a de facto confederation. This for all practical intents and purposes pretty much accomplishes the exact same thing that a military operation would have, if not much more, and through obviously peaceful means too.
Interested readers should review Duda’s and Zelensky’s speeches in full before proceeding in order to better understand exactly why the analysis has arrived at this dramatic conclusion. They’re hyperlinked in the preceding sentence and each one is connected to their leader’s speech as translated into English by their official websites. Beginning with Zelensky, the most relevant excerpts that stand out from his address concern the excessive praise of Poland and remarks about his people’s eternal unity with it, which he literally said “must last forever” now. He also interspersed their most famous historical figures into his speech too in order to imply that they’ve actually been united for hundreds of years already.
Like his Polish counterpart also ended up doing, he symbolically quoted Pope John Paul II, who hoped that Poles and Ukrainians would move past their difficult history “So that together they may build a future based on mutual respect, brotherhood, fraternal cooperation and true solidarity.” This adds a religious and fatalistic dimension to Duda being the first foreign leader to address the Verkhovna Rada since the start of Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. Zelensky then swooned about how most of Ukraine’s sister cities are in Poland before adding that “Our nations are also brothers. Our countries are sisters. We are relatives. And there should be no borders or barriers between us.”
That last line channels what Duda said on 3 May during Poland’s Constitution Day when he declared that “I hope that for decades to come, and God willing, for centuries to come, Ukraine will be a brotherly state to the Republic of Poland, the country where – as I hope President Volodymyr Zelenski prophetically said – there will be no border between them and ourselves; that there will be no border; that we will live together on this soil, rebuilding and restoring our shared happiness and strength.” The Ukrainian leader then announced work on joint border and customs control as well as promising to grant Poles in Ukraine the same de facto citizenship rights as Poland has granted Ukrainians.
This specifically concerns “Legal residence, employment, education, medical care, (and) social guarantees”, according to Zelensky. In other words, each of their citizens can live on the other’s territory without any problem and fully integrate into their society. This places Poland and Ukraine on the same “one nation-two states” path as Turkey and Azerbaijan. He then concluded his speech by implying that their security is now intertwined with each other, saying that “Without a free Ukraine, there can be no free Poland. I know historians often argue about who was the first to say this, who was the author of this phrase. We have resolved this dispute – this is the will of the Ukrainian and Polish nations.”
Duda, who represents Ukraine’s Polish “big brother” in this de facto confederation, added some more details to what everyone can expect in the coming future from those two’s unofficial merger. He began by describing Ukrainians as heroes “for defending Europe from the invasion of barbarity and new Russian imperialism” in response to them describing Poles the same way for providing them the arms to fight on their behalf. This added credence to the suspicion that Zelensky’s concluding words were meant to imply that their security is already intertwined, which along with their supposed “unity” that the Ukrainian leader expects to “last forever”, is why they’re merging into a de facto confederation.
Just like Zelensky did, Duda also excessively praised his country’s “sisterly/brotherly” people and did his utmost to imply that they’ve already been united for centuries. Additionally, he cited the exact same quote from Pope John Paul II calling on Poles and Ukrainians to move past their difficult history, which reinforced the religious and fatalistic dimensions of their de facto confederation. After ranting a lot about Russia, Duda then got into the meat and bones of his speech by promising that he “personally will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union in the full sense of the word.” He then followed this up by announcing a new “Treaty on Good Cooperation and Mutual Neighbourly Relations”.
Duda detailed some of what he has in mind by proposing a high-speed railway between Warsaw and Kiev as well as comprehensive improvements on all other connectivity infrastructure like standard railways and roads. It’s unclear how many tens of billions of dollars all of this might cost, but he believes that it’s absolutely necessary because “The Polish–Ukrainian border should unite, not divide.” He also proposed that Russia’s approximately $300 billion in stolen foreign reserves be relied upon to pay for this, which might endear the idea to his own people who might predictably be reluctant to foot the bill and enter into poverty for potential perpetuity just for the sake of their Ukrainian “brothers and sisters”.
The Polish leader’s final proposal is for Ukraine to join the Warsaw-led “Three Seas Initiative”, which basically functions as his country’s envisioned “sphere of influence” across Central & Eastern Europe (CEE). Taken together, everything that Duda proposed is essentially aimed at bringing Ukraine under Polish hegemony through the de facto confederation that he and Zelensky just unofficially agreed to create. There are clear limitations within it, such as Poland not paying for Ukraine’s reconstruction and neither country’s citizens presumably being able to run for political office in the other, but it’s clear that they’re on the path of merging into a confederated state.
Their people will be able to live and work freely in one another’s territory while receiving “education, medical care, (and) social guarantees”, which is pretty much what those within the Schengen Zone can already do. While a supranational body hasn’t yet been created for governing those two like has already been established in the EU, that’s actually not even needed since Poland doesn’t care what local laws Ukraine promulgates and isn’t interested in micromanaging its law enforcement-judicial matters as long as Kiev surrenders its defense, economic, and foreign policies to Warsaw. This dramatic development would ordinarily just be those two countries’ business if it wasn’t for Kiev’s current conflict with Russia.
The grand strategic context is such that the de facto confederation created through the informal merging of Poland and Ukraine with the former as the latter’s “big brother” sets the context for Warsaw to militarily intervene in part of Lenin’s unnatural mini-empire between it and Russia on whatever pretext it concocts. This could take the form of dispatching peacekeepers, drawing a “red line” in Western Ukraine to halt any Russian military breakthrough in that direction (protected as it would be by the US’ nuclear umbrella), or simply freeing up Kiev’s forces from that front to be sent to the East and South. That means that Naryshkin’s warning of a Polish military intervention can’t be written off just yet.