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This time we’ll start with poetry.

My attention was drawn towards the following poem during Easter whilst reading Professor Andrzej Nowak’s latest book, the chapter describing Poland’s dependence on the Soviet empire after World War II. Czesław Miłosz described the centuries-old Russian imperial pressure on our part of Europe from the east, very depressingly, as follows:

Orsha is a bad station. In Orsha, the train can stay for a day.

So maybe it was in Orsha that I got lost, six years old,

and the repatriation train started, leaving me behind

 

Forever. As if I understood that I would be someone else

The poet of another language, with a different fate.

As if I’m guessing my end at the shores of Kolyma,

Where the bottom of the sea is white with human skulls.

And then a great terror came to me,

That, which was to be the mother of all my fears.

 

The little child trembles before the pain.* Before the Empire.

Which moves and moves west, armed with bows, ropes, Papasha submachine guns,

Riding a carriage, hitting the rider on the back,

Or in a jeep, in tarps, with a file of conquered lands,

And I have been running away for a hundred or three hundred years

Over ice and swimming, by day, by night, any further,

Leaving over the home river with hole-pocked armour and a chest of the king’s gifts,

Across the Dnieper, then across the Niemen, across the Bug, and across the Vistula.

 

But I come to a city of tall houses and long streets

And fear torments me, for what am I here to them but a peasant?

Because I just pretend to understand what they are so smart about

And I try to hide my shame, my failure from them.

 

Who will feed me here when I walk at cloudy dawn

With a tiny coin in your pocket for one coffee and no more?

A refugee from imaginary countries, who will I be here?

 

Stone walls, indifferent walls, dreadful walls.

An order not of mine, but of their minds.

Now just say yes, don’t kick. You won’t run any further.

 

 

“The Anxious Dream” A translation of the Polish-language poem Trwoga – Sen (1918) by Czesław Miłosz

*This sentence is written in (transliterated) Russian in the original.

The Dnieper river (source: Pixabay)

Since the reign of Tsar Peter the Great, this peculiarly Russian combination of primitivism and civilisational backwardness with simultaneous military power, growing demography and islands of high civilisation: Russian literature, ballet, space travel or atomistics, pushing towards the setting sun, destroyed and trampled the development of nations between the two interior seas of Europe – the Baltic and the Black. Miłosz’s poem is a good illustration of this sense of a reversal of civilization, escape, eternal retreat, misfortune at the breakdown of the civilised order.

 

In 2022, in connection with the war between Russia and Ukraine and the course of hostilities unfavourable for Russia, we have the best chance in 100 years, and maybe even in 300 years, to reverse the whole situation. The Anxious Dream à rebours! It’s time to think about the Polish victory plan. Yes – Polish, Ukrainians certainly have theirs and let’s not do it for them. Because we should consider what the war and the new geopolitical situation should bring for Poland so that our interests are best served.

Our rivalry with Russia in the areas between Poland and Russia has always been aimed at establishing an advantage, not good neighbourly relations. Mieroszewski wrote in the twentieth century: “It seems that while the Russians never appreciated the Ukrainians and still do not appreciate them…” (as can be seen from the course of the war in 2022), “they have always overestimated and still overestimate the Poles. They always see us as rivals – either active or only potential, but always as rivals.”

Litvinov spoke about the rebuilding of the Polish empire from the 16th and 17th centuries, which seems comical to us, but for Litvinov, unlike us, the 20th century was a continuation of the 16th and 17th centuries, with the same traditional problems, including Polish problems. Like the Tsars, Stalin, Litvinov, Brezhnev and the like believed and believe that either the Poles or the Russians would rule in the ULB areas (Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus).

 

Mieroszewski wrote further, that: “The advantage of the Russians was confirmed by HISTORY, which turned our fights and uprisings to ruin. But most Poles do not believe that we can ever gain an advantage over Russia, and the child of this unbelief is the servile satellite mentality. One can add, unfortunately, that this is strongly embedded in the Poles.” Mieroszewski’s statement that it was possible to push Russia away from the gates of Przemyśl to Smolensk was even more fanciful. And yet, this is what actually happened after 1991.

 

The war in Ukraine, successive victories of the Ukrainian army, also supported by military and material aid from Poland, gives a chance to push Russia even further to the east and push it out of the European system for good. It may even lead to a political and social crisis, Smuta and disintegration of the state. The recovery of Crimea and Donbas and the destruction of the cherished land forces of the Russian Federation could lead to this.

Going further, the plan for Poland’s victory in the war between Russia and Ukraine is the reverse of the quoted poem, that is, when instead of pushing for 300 years with its influence to the west, Russia will now withdraw, shrink, give way under force across the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga, even beyond the Urals. Under the influence of sanctions and a losing war, it escapes, collapses and ceases to count. In other words, when Russia has no basis whatsoever to influence the political situation in Europe.

The time has come for Polish politicians to take a piece of paper, a pen and write down the plan of Poland’s political victory as sheet music. So what should have happened or has to happen consecutively for Poland to benefit from this war as much as possible?

 

It’s not just enough to win a kinetic war. This, of course, means repelling the invasion, regaining Kherson, Mariupol, the whole of Crimea with Sevastopol, and Donbas with its mines and iron. This means the destruction of Russia’s land forces so that it can no longer be treated as a superpower influencing the security architecture of Europe.

It is often much more difficult to win a peace that will bring stability, development and future. It is necessary to win peace for Ukraine in order for it to develop, to obtain investments from the world, to have full access to the sea, world markets and raw materials. That Kyiv would be able to control the movement of strategic flows on its territory and shape them in accordance with its needs, and not with the artificial dictates of its dominant neighbour, so that it could freely decide with whom it has trade relations. That it would not be dependent only on the aid funds coming latitudinally from Western Europe, but that it would have development abilities itself.

It is also important for Poland to change the balance of power in Europe as a result of this war, which will also be beneficial for all the nations of the Baltic-Black Sea Bridge. Ukraine should become a Western state, but for our part of Europe to become an independent economic system, although anchored in the EU, but capable of creating its own value chains and a system of economic circulation, breaking the dualism on the Elbe, using the huge potential of Ukraine and Belarus and opening to the Black Sea and trade to the south.

 

It is equally important that the United States remain in this part of the continent both militarily and in terms of investment, and that Sweden and Finland join NATO, strengthening the power and influence of the United States in the Old Continent at the expense of the unfavourable ideas of continental France and Germany in cooperation with Russia, whose emphatic military defeat would nullify such ideas.

 

Both Poland and Ukraine will benefit from arranging internal affairs in Ukraine and their economic system in such a way as to break the oligarchy and control the influence of German capital on the reconstruction of Ukraine, in particular Ukrainian agriculture, which Germany and its concerns have a taste for.

 

The optimal plan is to dilute German strength in NATO and the EU after winning the war and breaking the raw material policy, and thus the high margin of the German economy. Especially since the upcoming energy and food crisis will redefine the EU in favour of the countries of our region, with the breaking of continental consolidation in the face of the greater presence of the British and Americans on the Baltic-Black Sea Bridge. This would be the end of the German Bismarck policy of “pretending to be stupid” and drawing raw materials from Russia (Russia as a source of Germany’s political power in Europe), having the option to trade with China and the peaceful development of Eurasia at the expense of the Atlantic world), with simultaneous access to world markets thanks to the US and as a result of all of the above control of the continent by its economic power.

 

Therefore, we should not agree to any “crooked” truce proposed by France and Germany, because it will not win peace for Ukraine, which will become a hull state, without good access to the sea and Donbas resources and no chance for investments, while remaining in a frozen conflict.

Planning the parameters of peace already during the war is often more important than the war itself, although its course and result are the material from which the parameters of peace are ultimately created.

It is now 100 years since the signing of the peace treaty in Riga which ended our war in the East with Soviet Russia and established relations in our part of the world for the next 20 years, including the end of Ukrainian and Belarusian dreams of self-determination. Then, together with Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam and the end of World War II, the chapter of the Jagiellonian policy of the Polish state was closed. Or so it would seem.

 

In 2022, we begin to dust off the old books and strategies of our former state.

 

In Riga in 1921, Poland won the war, but lost the peace. This is how the course of military operations and peace negotiations can be summed up. One more battle was missing somewhere near Orsha or Vitebsk in the Smolensk gate. Such a battle would have pushed Russia beyond the Dnieper and the Dvina and laid the foundations for a federation with Belarus and Ukraine. There were apparently not enough forces for this, both political and military. Although as to whether this was really the case, discussions are still ongoing, and the source materials do not give a clear answer what Józef Piłsudski (because he was the one who made the decision) “felt” in the autumn of 1920 and the spring of 1921, when it comes to the specific balance of power. It was Piłsudski who had to consider the arguments that were to decide about war, peace and the geopolitical system of Eastern Europe.

 

Ukraine’s President Zelensky has to agree to his own version of the Treaty of Riga. Poland lost the peace then, and Piłsudski himself was disappointed with the Treaty of Riga. Giedroyć even claimed that after signing the treaty, Piłsudski became a different man, closed to others, not believing in the durability of the Polish state. He felt that the existence of Poland was temporary, that he had failed to build a new, favourable balance on the Baltic-Black Sea bridge that would permanently keep Russia outside the European system by building a federation of states separating it from Europe. Because the war in Ukraine is all about whether Russia is in the middle of the European system and plays within it or outside of it, thus giving a chance for the development of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic state, etc., respecting the civilisation rights of those who are dear to them, about which Miłosz recalls so beautifully in the poem above.

 

Therefore, let us wish Zelensky that he will have enough strength and that he will not be forced to peace on German and French conditions, especially when autumn comes, there will be a social fear of the cold, the lack of raw materials and shortages and food for Europeans who will traditionally forget about values and what was going on with this war. They will want everything to be the old way.

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“The Anxious Dream”- à rebours? Part 1
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In the time of Goliath, it was clear and obvious that heavy bronze armour and an iron-tipped spear were the basis of a soldier’s strength.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The strategic plan of the Philistines was to disarm the Hebrews by destroying their metallurgical works of that time. They did so to a great extent (as we read in the First Book of Samuel) by capturing and exiling all of the artisans working on the new technology. This prevented the Hebrews from producing their own modern weapons and made them dependent on the Philistines for civilian production, such as in agriculture. Thus, the key to the power of the Philistines was their industrial power, which of course gave them serious economic power. This is a characteristic example of a military-industrial complex in ancient times.

The two main offensive weapons in those days were a heavy iron spear, well suited to close combat, and a light throwing spear. Both weapons were moved by the strength of the thrower’s muscles. Targeting and missile control required a combination of a good eye and skilled hands. The limitations of these weapons resulted from the limitations of human efficiency.

Back then, all armies had more or less the same armaments and the same level of training in range and accuracy. Depending on how technically the weapon was constructed, there were only slight innovations to it, other than an increase in the weight of the spear. Even innovative tactics were limited by the nature of the weapon. The only way to have an advantage over the opponent was defensively, by improving the warrior’s chances of surviving a spear attack. Therefore, over time, those who had a better economic base and an industrial-military complex began to gain an advantage, and were able to provide their warriors with better and better armour that resisted spearheads more and more effectively.

 

When Goliath went into battle, “he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” (KJV, 1 Sam, 17.5–7).

The task of Goliath and his offensive mission was to throw the javelin and attack with the spear. However, to survive up to this point, he had to carry 220 pounds of bronze armour and a shield so large that it required a separate man to carry it to the battlefield. The only reason to put on and wear such heavy armour was because it allowed for any kind of offensive action in the first place; but otherwise, this was only a burden that made it difficult to move during combat.

Goliath was therefore burdened with two fundamental weaknesses. Firstly, a defensive weapon system that protected against the enemy, but limited mobility. The heavy weight of the armour meant that the fighter could not move with enough agility and in the pace required on the battlefield, especially during the clash with David in hilly terrain.

 

This would not be a problem if his enemy were also burdened with such weight. Both would then be equally handicapped in their combat mobility. Meanwhile, one side made a breakthrough in strategic or tactical mobility, and the entire balance collapsed dramatically. Another weakness for Goliath was that while he was well protected by his bronze armour, he was not perfectly protected. His eyes, this system of martial observation, orientation and guidance, were not protected. The warrior needed to see something.

 

These small points were vulnerable. If Goliath, the heavyweight infantry archetype, was to be defeated, it would require a more mobile combat platform. Additionally, it required a weapon of sufficient range to hit Goliath beyond the range of his own offensive weapon. This weapon should be accurate enough to take advantage of Goliath’s weaknesses in defence and strong enough to topple him, kill him, or otherwise eliminate him from combat.

David was not a professional fighter, so he was not burdened with established beliefs about the necessary weapons, the art of operation, or tactical action, nor did he invest in very expensive weapons like the Goliath. He also had no obligations towards his social group, where a specific way of fighting would be associated with social and political status and connections with the industrial and defence complex of the time (on the consequences of which, more shortly).

This meant that he could correlate a political goal with an action plan without pre-imposed mental maps. For example, he was free to choose the technology and tactics best to defeat the enemy. At first, Saul, the leader of the Hebrews, “armed David with his armour, and he put a helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.” (KJV, 1 Sam 17: 38-40).

 

David was mobile. He could easily have been killed if he had entered the Goliath’s firing zone. But Goliath – laden with armor – moved very slowly. So he couldn’t move forward fast enough to catch David within his blast radius. It was an unequal fight. David was perfectly safe as long as he could maintain discipline and follow his combat plan. In such a fight, only Goliath took the risk. The lack of equipment meeting the requirements of the art of war at that time saved David’s life and gave freedom to the people of Israel. Had David gone into battle wearing Saul’s armor, he would have probably been killed.

 

Meanwhile, David has become an effective combat platform, very mobile, with a system of tracking, targeting and launching missiles at a distance. The shock weapon was a slingshot, and stones were the projectiles. It was a radically new system that was light, but capable of striking at long range and very accurate. Its main advantage was the low energy expenditure of human muscles by increasing their power thanks to the centrifugal force of the slingshot.

 

David spun the slingshot over his head, dramatically increasing the initial energy of the projectile and compensating for its light weight. The revolution on the battlefield caused by the advent of technological innovation in the form of the slingshot was possible primarily due to the willingness to change among the warrior caste of the time. This was missing on the part of the Philistines who, functioning according to old mental maps, felt good and were confident in themselves and their convictions. After all, they had successfully consolidated property in the coastal plains, stopped the earlier Hebrew offensive led by Saul, and were now in the midst of their own counter-offensive toward the coveted centre of the land.

Here comes a very important issue, no less important in making a revolution in military affairs than the mere defeat of Goliath. Military effort to date had been based on the paradigm of heavier and more expensive weapons. As such, it was socially and economically attractive to a specific social group. Metallurgy was the high-tech business of the time, and it harmonised well with the trading power of the Philistines in the eastern Mediterranean. It gave political agency to the then technologists, engineers and manufacturers as well as the military and political leaders allied with them.

The Israelites were forced to defend themselves, and Saul’s forces withdrew from the attackers. Why now suddenly change the battlefield paradigm? The great Philistine offensive led to an internal crisis of confidence in the Hebrew headquarters. Under enemy pressure, some commanders stiffened in command, clinging to old doctrines and additionally increasing their dependence on already outdated solutions. Saul was different. Upon seeing what David had done with Goliath, he accepted the introduction of a new technology and doctrine of action in the war against the Philistines, even though this seriously undermined the authority and the intellectual and social foundations of his own “old” army.

 

Moreover, such a revolution seemed to regress at first glance. The poor equipment of mobile slingers cost pennies. In addition, people from outside the social classes that had previously dealt with warfare could now join the fight waged by David’s new warriors. This led to a radical and incomprehensible simplification of combat doctrine. However, the ruler of the Hebrews, Saul, was able to accept such a breakthrough and thus defeated the Philistines in the war.

But this is where things get complicated. The Old Testament tale has two parts: the more famous one about the defeat of Goliath and the less known one about the matter between Saul and David, between the “old” and the “new”. It is also significant that Saul wanted to have his cake and eat it. He had the flexibility of mind to accept that the way to win a war was to fight David and his men, but when the enemy was defeated, Saul wanted to go back to the old way of functioning. This method guaranteed the former caste its proper social status, political power and shares in the industrial and defence complex, concentrated precisely on the old way of warfare. As a result, there was a conflict between Saul’s traditional forces of and David’s new, light and mobile units, which, moreover, proved their advantage. David and his people won.

The biblical story of David leads to several conclusions about the development of weapons and the nature of warfare. New breakthrough technology often feels less advanced than the old ones. For example, in the 14th century, the then firearms seemed completely ineffective against fortifications. In the twentieth century, battleships seemed to be the pinnacle of technology, while the planes that flew in front of them seemed to be a plaything and were considered a primitive weapon against such powerful ships.

 

It needs to be remembered that each weapons system (and its entire family) has a life cycle. A weapon appears (starting the cycle) when an offensive weapon is required, and ends its life when a weapons system has developed to be so complex that it needs to be defended rather than used for an attack. The whole cycle has taken place when the effort to defend such a system eclipses its offensive capabilities. A weapon reaches its utility limit when the resources needed to defend it and survive remove its cost-effect. Thus, a weapon reaches its end when the cost of defending it is so great that it makes it impossible to buy other necessary weapons, or it disrupts the civil economy. Such was the result of the defensive armour of Goliath, all that bronze armour, scale plates, greaves, helmet, etc. And this may be the result of the end of the stealth technology cycle (and of the controversial F-35 aircraft, for example) – which is today’s (very expensive) armour of modern aircraft.

 

Armed forces that have not had significant military successes in the past are more likely not to miss the moment when the end-of-life process of a given type of weapon begins.

Winning wars creates the illusion that certain technologies will always be effective. This illusion is mixed with the interests of the military, political and industrial leadership and the established interests of specific politicians and interest groups in the political and social system. All these subconsciously allied forces create a sense of technical greatness by focusing on technology as a “miracle”. It gives the impression that technology works miracles and thanks to it you will gain supremacy on the battlefield.

In pathological cases, there is even a feeling of invincibility amongst an army or a type of armed forces. The victory of the French in World War I led to a technological, organisational and leadership defeat in 1940. Losing a war (ideally, of course, without completely destroying the country’s potential, its occupation or full subjugation) is the best impulse for change. This is proven by history.

 

US ground forces after their defeat in Vietnam showed all the symptoms of a defeated army, and the Israeli army in October 1973 showed the damage caused by the too-easy victory of 1967. Today, one wonders where the American campaigns of recent years and the technological domination in the fields of asymmetric war might have led America in terms of a future in which systematic warfare breaks out between the great powers.

 

At the peak moment for ancient weapons, just before their defeat, the latest generation of war technology appears invincible. Knights in full armor, fortifications with massive artillery power, battleships, ICBMs – all of these weapons came and went as the last word of technology. And it remained so until events on the battlefield made them a mere burden.

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David and Goliath, or an Old Testament story about Poland’s New Model Forces (for those who can read between the lines). Part 1

“Poland from sea to sea” (Polska od morza do morza). This slogan is most often associated with the 16th century and the period of the greatest power of the Polish Republic. And although the question of actual Polish rule over the Black Sea coast is quite complicated and not obvious, this direction has long occupied an important place in the history of our country.

Jan Kochanowski in his work entitled “Satyr or Wild Husband” (Satyr albo Dziki mąż) wrote:

Tymci Polska urosła, a granice swoje

Rozciągnęła szeroko między morza dwoje.

“This is how Poland grew, and its borders / Stretched wide between two seas.”

(Source: pxhere.com)

When we look at the historical maps, we see that no part of the Black Sea has ever belonged de jure to the Polish kingdom. Instead, the northern coast was under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for some time. However, this was already a period in which the power of the kings of Poland reached far beyond the borders of their kingdom. When in 1386, pursuant to the provisions of the Union of Krewo, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Władysław Jagiełło married the Polish king Jadwiga Andegaweńska, he became the ruler of both Poland and Lithuania. Contrary to what is commonly believed today, this was not a typical personal union. The agreement modeled the new division of powers on the union of bishoprics and benefices known from canon law. On the basis of this structure, Władysław Jagiełło, already as the king of Poland and not the Grand Duke of Lithuania, ruled in both countries. In practice, this made the Lithuanian lands a dependent territory of the Crown, and for this reason it was Władysław Jagiełło who was to take possession of both countries.

 

In 1397, the borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania increased by the so-called the Ochakiv Field (Yedisan), i.e. the area between the mouths of the Dnieper and the Dniester. At that time, the Principality of Moldavia was also a fiefdom of the Polish kingdom, with ports in Kilia and Bilhorod (Białogród), which, together with the Lithuanian port in Ochakiv, were important trade centers of the Jagiellonian dynasty. Goods were exported through the Black Sea ports and merchants from other countries were accepted, from which the goods then went to Polish and Lithuanian cities and – of course – to manors.

 

An opportunity to expand the influence of the Crown in the Black Sea basin appeared in 1462, when a legation from the Crimean city of Kaffa (now Feodosia) arrived to King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, asking for protection of the city. The city was founded as a colony of the Italian city of Genoa and at that time had over 70,000 inhabitants. For comparison, the population of Krakow did not exceed 20,000. Kaffa was also a mighty fortress with defensive walls more than five kilometres long. It had 34 defense towers, 24 barbicans and five gates leading to the city. Despite this impressive defense system, the inhabitants feared that after the capture of Constantinople in 1453, it was their city that could become the next victim of the Turkish Empire. These fears became a reality in 1475, when an army of 40,000 people, supported by 300 ships, stood outside the city. Unfortunately, the support of the Polish army turned out to be insufficient, and the loss of the city heralded the twilight of the presence of Polish rulers on the shores of the Black Sea, completed in 1484 by the joint Turkish-Tatar forces of key remaining ports: Bilhorod (Białogród), Kilia and Ochakiv.

 

Recognising the advantages of access to the Black Sea, successive rulers made attempts to regain the aforementioned castles. The first expedition took place in 1492 – during the reign of King Jan Olbracht. Another ruler who dreamed of returning to the Black Sea was Jan III Sobieski, who travelled there three times (in 1685, 1686 and 1691). Unfortunately, all these attempts were unsuccessful.

 

It may be ironic that this goal was, in a sense, achieved by King Stanisław August Poniatowski at the least expected moment. When the first partition took place in 1772, the Kingdom of Poland was deprived of a direct connection with Gdańsk, and high duties were imposed on Polish merchants wishing to use the Baltic ports. So they started looking for alternative trade routes, and since the Polish Republic was then a Russian protectorate, the Black Sea turned out to be the natural direction. Efforts were made in 1782, when Tsarina Catherine II agreed to allow Polish goods to enter Russia duty-free. Polish merchants were also allowed to use the recently opened port in Kherson, where the Polish Trade Company (Kompania Handlowa Polska) had its headquarters. Ships belonging to the company departed from this port, among others to Marseille, Alexandria and Barcelona. The Russian-Turkish war and the war in defense of the Constitution of May 3, which ended with another partition, brought an end to commercial activities.

The last episode of the journey through history is the period of the Second Polish Republic. At the end of World War I, the Crimean People’s Republic was established on the Crimean peninsula. Until 1918, it was an area under the protection of Germany, but the end of the Great War forced the Germans to withdraw from the occupied territories. The Tatars, who headed the Crimean republic, feared that the Russians would soon claim the peninsula. For this reason, in January 1919, they sent a request to the Allies to grant the Crimean Peninsula to reborn Poland as its mandate in the peace treaty. Unfortunately, also in this case, things turned out unfavourably and before the parties started the talks, Russian troops entered the peninsula.

 

As you can see, history has not been kind to this area, which has significantly limited the development and position of the Black Sea ports. On the other hand, it shows that ensuring stable conditions for development can translate into many benefits – both for Poland and Ukraine. The question then arises: can Polish capital return to the Black Sea after so many centuries?

 

For obvious reasons, today it is difficult to talk about returning to Crimea. This conflict-torn peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is today probably beyond all reach of Poland’s ability to influence. However, there are other ports in the region, such as the one in Odessa, which, subject to gradual modernisation, could be incorporated into the Polish economic system, becoming important trade centres and, after the Baltic Sea, another Polish window to the world.

 

Let us imagine a scenario in which Poland and Ukraine establish cooperation for the lease of a port and/or the construction of an intermodal connection between selected Black Sea ports and the Polish supply system.

 

Could it pay off? A mere cursory reading of the map shows that such a solution would open the way to a deepening of trade relations of the Polish-Ukrainian tandem with both Georgia and Turkey. Parallel communication by land could also be a branch towards the Moldovan gate, towards Romania and Bulgaria. However, this is not the end, because along with the development of the trail and after crossing the Turkish straits, we could go, among others to Greece, Israel, North Africa and, of course, towards the Suez Canal – one of the most important trade arteries of the globalisation era and the heart of the world system. This scenario could therefore significantly contribute to shortening supply chains, while reducing the dependence of the Polish Republic on ports in Germany, the Netherlands or Italy.

 

Drawing this picture in our minds, we can easily understand one of the most important aspects of modern geopolitics, crucial for the development of a modern state. We will find out what are the so-called strategic flows and the importance of proper national communication. Railways, ports, highways, airports, the Internet – all this enables the movement of people, goods, information, technology and capital. Modern infrastructure is the essence of statehood and one of the most important tools of economic development in the hands of the state. Thanks to modern infrastructure, people communicate and earn money. Investments follow. Modern and efficient communication translates into competitive advantages, better productivity, lower prices and shorter delivery times, and consequently generates a higher margin in enterprises, an increase in salaries and greater revenues to the state budget. And this effect is present at every level. Not only a single company, but also the region in which it is located, and finally the entire state. In this sense, the communication network must not only bind the country internally, but also go outside, and it must do so on conditions favourable to Poland. In this way, supply chains are created, i.e. a network of cooperating companies ready to produce and deliver a product or service. Rapid development and control of infrastructure translates into a higher degree of capitalisation of projects. This is followed, among others, by innovation and production cycles are created. Everything together creates strategic flows.

 

When we think about Poland’s return to the Black Sea, we cannot ignore the issue of Turkey, whose participation is crucial to the success of the proposed project. Like our ancestors, today we too will be bound to learn to think beyond the borders of our own country. The history of the Polish Republic clearly shows that there was a time when Constantinople did not occupy such a distant place in the perception of Poles as it does today. The great rivers of the construct of the former Polish Republic, flowing towards the Black Sea, were a proven and effective tool for the development of trade. However, unlike in the 15th and 16th centuries, the circumstances of today can make Turkey a natural ally of Poland and Ukraine. In this sense, the politically ambitious Ankara may be interested not only in extending the route to its own ports, but also in providing support, freedom of movement and even protection for Polish ships.

 

Seeing a light in the tunnel, we can ask another question – does such a project have a chance to be implemented? Do Poland and Ukraine have enough determination and resources to think in such categories? The Gdańsk Port Authority has developed a concept for a route connecting the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, covering not only Turkish but also Scandinavian ports. A letter of intent in this matter between Poland and Ukraine was signed in December 2020. At what stage is the project today? The port of Gdańsk has been on the growth path for several years. Last year, 48 million tonnes of cargo were handled here. It is estimated that in the coming years this volume will exceed the level of 60 million tonnes. Trade with Ukraine has also intensified. For this reason, the Gdańsk authorities decided to build 80 kilometres of new railway lines and have modernised three transhipment stations, and at the national level, the modernisation of railway connections at the border crossing in Medyka and Dorohusk was completed. It turns out that the only missing link today is the Ukrainian railway system. On the Polish side, the infrastructure is practically ready, as well as the appropriate sea connections in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.

 

It seems that Poland and Ukraine have seen their chances and what might have seemed a naive dream not so long ago, has started to take on a tangible form. If the government in Kyiv manages to bear the burden of modernisation, we will have a real chance to reconnect the two seas on favourable terms.

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Poland on the Black Sea

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It is now 100 years since the signing of the peace treaty in Riga, which ended Poland’s war in the east with Soviet Russia and established relations in our part of the world for the following 20 years. Then Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam and the end of World War II, closed the chapter of the Jagiellonian foreign policy of Poland. Or so it would seem.

House of the Blackheads in Riga – the place where the treaty was signed at 8:30 PM on 18th March 1921 (source: Wikipedia)

Poland won the war, but lost the peace. This is how the course of military operations and peace negotiations can be summed up. One more battle was missing somewhere near Orsza and Vitebsk, at the Smolensk Gate, which would have pushed Russia beyond the Dnieper and the Daugava Rivers. However, there were not enough forces for this, both political and military. Discussions are still underway as to whether or not this was really the case and the source materials do not give a clear answer over the feelings of Józef Piłsudski (because he was the one who made the decision) in the fall of 1920 and the spring of 1921 when it came to a specific balance of power. It was Piłsudski who had to consider the arguments that were to decide the scope of war, peace and the geopolitical system of Eastern Europe. He made them based on his own reading of the situation and the system of forces, often intuitively, because how could it be otherwise. It is much easier to judge such a decision after a hundred years, having archival resources and, above all, knowledge of how history unfolded further. Responsibility rests with the individual politician who has to make a decision within a certain timeframe, based on his own judgment of the situation. It’s tough, that’s why politics is tough.

Poland lost the peace, and Piłsudski himself was disappointed with the Treaty of Riga. Giedroyć even claimed that after signing the treaty, Piłsudski became a different man, closed to others who did not believe in the durability of the Polish state. He felt that Poland’s existence was temporary, that he had failed to build a new, favourable balance in the Intermarium that would permanently remove Russia from the European political system by building a federation of nations separating Russia from Europe.

For various reasons, the war did not bring about the establishment of the federation, despite the assault on Kiev, the Ukrainian independence attempts supported by Poland, the great victories of Polish soldiers near Warsaw and on the Niemen River. Society, tired of seven years of uninterrupted war, enormous economic and war devastation, did not support the federalization plan of consolidating the entire Intermarium. At the same time, the dissimilarity of a large part of the population in the Eastern Frontier from the Polish “Crown” (Corona Regni Poloniae) did not provide grounds for forcing the construction of a uniform state reaching up to the Daugpilis and the Dnieper for fear of the weakness of the internal cohesion of this entity due to ethnical minorities. Piłsudski had to struggle with his thoughts in those days.

Hence the compromise of Riga, which was only a “pieriedyszka“, a temporary rest that imperial Russia, in this case in the Soviet form, used to restore its power. The geopolitical pause gained by the efforts of the Polish soldier began to end in the late 1930s with a clear end on the day of signing the continental pact by Ribbentrop and Molotov.

And then the Soviets did everything they could to kill the Jagiellonian idea: the extermination of the Polish population in the East, deportations, destruction of the culture and material world defined by the presence of several hundred years beyond the Nieman and Bug rivers. Post-Yalta borders, expulsions and ideological orders were to eliminate the foundations of Polish politics in the East once and for all.

 

The communist Poland – a vassal state vis-à-vis the Soviet Union did not even dare to think about Polish eastern policy. The former Eastern Frontier (Kresy) itself appeared to the Polish independence intelligentsia in the People’s Republic of Poland as a story from the old days, a bit romantic, manorial, and slightly out of tune with the realities of the “twentieth century”. But certainly the case appeared to be a closed past.

 

In 1989-1991 a miracle happened. The empire in the East collapsed. Not as the result of a war with our participation, but as the result of a world war between the USSR and the USA – and more specifically the course of the Cold War and the balance of power formed at its end between the superpowers, which broke the Soviet continental empire, freeing the peoples and nations that the empire imprisoned. Then, almost all of them ran for freedom – and certainly all the nations of the Intermarium.

Implementing the ideas of Mieroszewski and Giedroyc, the new Poland recognised all the new and independent states in the east. Over the next years, we believed that the power of the West, its institutions and lifestyle, as well as the values that were so different than those embodied by the Russian or Soviet Empire, would “do” for us as an eastern policy, which for several hundred years had consistently been reduced to a very simple goal: prevent the possibility of Russia playing in the European balance of power political system, which usually results in overwhelming the agency and development of self-determination of Poland and other countries in the region.

From the perspective of 2021, it should be made clear: this was a mistake.

 

The lack of own business, capital, economic, relational, cultural, intelligence and military influence, that were not promoted due to internal affairs of the countries in the East, closed the East to the effective influence of Poland or failed to deliver political leverage. That was quite obvious during the Belarusian crisis in the summer of 2020. It showed that Poland is the subject of politics in the region, not its organizing entity. In the political game for their place in the international system, the Ukrainians or Belarusians do not need Poland. They carry out their activities through the Germans, French or the European Union institutions, or they have to come to terms with the Russians. The Baltic countries also did this, although this has changed somewhat in recent years, when they found out that in the face of Russia’s pressure, the only real land force in the region from the first day of the war is the Polish Army. So they started to count, though we are not using this leverage sufficiently.

 

Our strategic restraint has been a result of a serious misunderstanding of the interplay between the Piast and Jagiellonian versions of foreign policies and a clear misunderstanding of what contemporary influences and instruments of pressure on the policy of another state consist in, so that these instruments serve their own interests.

 

The Jagiellonian policy complements the Piast policy. It is not a disjointed alternative. There is no one without the other, and vice versa. This conclusion epitomizes the curse of the geopolitics of Poland, which has traditionally had too weak a population and economic potential to survive with its own “agency” with Russia and Germany, when both of these powers are mighty and well-governed.

Economic consolidation, development, the construction of infrastructure and taking care of the shaping of internal and external strategic structures to serve Poland, even through a “Piast foreign policy” enabling ties to the Atlantic-oriented economic zone, must be complemented by a Jagiellonian policy consisting in shaping a Polish-friendly space in the East, from which there will be no threats to  the “Piast” consolidation. The space in the East should be optimally shaped geopolitically by shaping strategic flows in the region.

The Jagiellonian policy appeared to be imperial because it referred, on a subconscious level, to the land, territories formerly colonized by the Polish Crown, where Poles had ownership and property dominance, associated with imperial domination and, despite our sweet ideas, often mistreating the Ukrainian or Belarusian populations.

Such a perception and design of this vision, for example by criticizing the postulate of the Jagiellonian policy in the 21st century (albeit perhaps under a different name) results from a lack of understanding of the determinants of 21st century strategy.

In the past, the main source of power, and therefore the influence and connections on which politics is based, was land and capital resulting from land labour or land ownership. So – from territories that give taxes, produce, resources, capital and recruits. The more recruits the better, because this number also mattered in military realm. It was during this period that the mental maps of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Eastern Frontier were formed, as well as the borderland culture, which Poles remember sentimentally while browsing old albums. This understanding of the source of power obviously resulted in ethnic conflicts and civil wars, including genocide. We also have a lot to accuse ourselves of, for example, political repressions against the Ukrainian minority in the eastern provinces or the inappropriate treatment of the Cossacks at the time.

 

In the meantime, the industrial revolution took place, which did not appear in the Eastern Frontier until the 20th century, and significantly changed the sources of power. It was strategic flows that began to be of great importance. The marches of the armies were still of great importance, but this also began to mean the movement of people by trains, cars, planes, the movement of goods, raw materials, energy, capital, technology, knowledge and data, creating a variable and fluid system of forces which, organised by the organising state, determined the influence, instruments of pressure, and the shaping of relationships for the benefit of the one’s state and its power. This was the expression of agency in a modern sense. It is the strategic flows that constitute the chessboard of the international game. Of course, there are still important places in the region, such as Małaszewicze, the Baranowicz communication junction or the port in Gdańsk, but they result from the strategic flow corridors that generate relative changes in power.

Shaping the space in the East to the benefit of the interests of the Polish state as part of a Jagiellonian policy can be achieved through capital, regulatory and business issues that generate levers of political pressure that must be taken into account in everyday politics. To have a chance to do it you must be in the East in terms of business, energy deals, capital investment etc., and stop viewing East from “moral high grounds”. Then you have a leverage that can change events. Otherwise, you just shout hollow rhetoric.

This is also overlapped by the ongoing information revolution. Information, its processing, its transmission, is becoming both a commodity and a weapon in the fight for perceptions and for building the power of agency. This growing phenomenon distracts us even more from any territorial revisionism, at the same time strengthening the essence of controlling the rules on which strategic flows take place.

 

This determines the necessity and building influence in the East so that the policy pursued there is friendly to Piast consolidation, which in turn has to deal with the not-insignificant challenge of dealing with dependent development in order to converge with Western Europe. A modern Jagiellonian policy results from the need for Piast consolidation, and it is possible to conduct effectively if the area of Piast consolidation gives it the means to do so, which builds influence in the east within a complex checkerboard of strategic flows.

 

Thus, a Jagiellonian policy in the east shapes the geopolitical environment of the Polish state, without which there is simply no Piast policy. This, however, is completely different than territorial claims or sentimental chats about Wilno or Lwów, or the exalted attitude of Poles towards other nations of the bridge.

 

The Jagiellonian policy of the 21st century is expressed in business, capital penetration, bank expansion, agency on the regulations defining these flows, on linking the population from the east with the Polish economic area, favourable cross-border traffic, importing labour supply from the east, reverse pipelines, energy transfers, the use of transport corridors, military cooperation within the framework of anti-access systems to blunt Russian “agency”.

 

It is the interdependence that builds the Jagiellonian policy. Observing from a distance does not build it, but even undermines the possibilities of Piast consolidation. Especially when the security order in the East breaks with the end of the geopolitical pause, which is repeated cyclically. And it bodes badly for Poland, which has been trying to rebuild, consolidate and modernize for 30 years.

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Jagiellonian Policy in the 21st Century
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