Strategic value of Poland and the ‘Intermarium’

The White House’s erratic, confused, and rudderless foreign policy endangers America’s Polish friend, and, indeed, other NATO members, putting Warsaw and the rest, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe, also known as the Intermarium, lands between the Black and Baltic seas, on a collision course vis-à-vis Berlin and Moscow. This is plainly obvious in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.

By Marek Jan Chodakiewicz l July 9, 2014

Gdańsk – Poland’s foreign minister Radek Sikorski is the latest foreign leader to pass a vote of no confidence on President Barack Obama’s conduct of international policy. Media reports almost completely missed this salient point focusing, instead, on the Polish official’s Hollywood-style profanity, which had been secretly recorded and leaked to the press. Under the current administration, the alliance with America “is worthless,” according to the Pole.

Sikorski, a staunch Transatlanticist, a reliable friend of America, former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and sometime roving correspondent for National Review, laments that, despite his nation’s bending over backwards, Washington has been an unreliable ally lately. The White House’s erratic, confused, and rudderless foreign policy endangers America’s Polish friend, and, indeed, other NATO members, putting Warsaw and the rest, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe, also known as the Intermarium, lands between the Black and Baltic seas, on a collision course vis-à-vis Berlin and Moscow. This is plainly obvious in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.

Sikorski’s cri de coeur has triggered some angry huffing and puffing among the globalized punditry. Aside from the usual “hate the U.S.” circles, in the European Union in particular, and the “I told you so” gleeful trolls of the Kremlin, America’s neo-isolationists and anarcho-capitalists have chimed in to skewer Poland’s foreign minister. Is America’s alliance worthless for Poland? Perhaps it is Poland that is worthless for the U.S., they charge. Their arguments boil down to this: What does Poland bring to the table? Nothing but trouble. It is a beneficiary of the thoughtless expansion of NATO with its Article 5 which obligates the U.S. to render Warsaw military assistance in case of an attack by an outside force. Admitting Poland and other post-Soviet countries to the alliance needlessly provoked Russia and exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington. America has really no national interest meddling in the post-Soviet zone. Too bad about poor Poland’s geopolitical location but that is really none of America’s business.

In a war-weary nation, with bad news pouring in from Iraq and Afghanistan, this sounds rather appealing to many. But it is a mischievous proposition which the neo-isolationist and anarcho-capitalist choir fails to square with America’s long term strategic goals. Yet, Poland and other post-Soviet nations deserve our support because they serve U.S. national interest. There are three main reasons: historical, geopolitical, and economic.

Historically, America fought the Cold War for almost half a century to liberate the nations enslaved by Communism, including Poland. The American people won at a great expenditure of blood and treasure. We liberated the slaves of Moscow throughout Eurasia. Should this legacy now go to waste? Should we simply abandon the fruits of our victory? Why did we fight the Cold War at all then? Further, the act of the liberation is just a halfway station to freedom. What about 40 acres and a mule? In other words, it is detrimental to our interests to abandon the liberated peoples to their own devices. If we fought for their freedom, it also follows that we should help them afterwards. The freedmen of the Intermarium need our help to secure their freedom otherwise they will lapse into servitude again: internally by the domestic post-Communist or other nefarious forces and externally by the Kremlin’s post-Soviets or other powers. Proof? It is now widely recognized as a monumental mistake to have abandoned Afghanistan to its own devices once we achieved the glorious objective of expelling the Soviets. Generally, the Cold War was fought not just to defeat Communism, but to replace it with a superior system of freedom congruent with the wishes of the former slaves, democracy in the best case scenario, or, at least a government that would not be hostile to the project of Pax Americana.

That brings us to the second reason why Poland and other liberated nations are valuable: geopolitics. In a unipolar world they constitute an important intermediate zone in a system of stability centered on America.  Its purpose is dual: to serve as a shield and a bridge. The former protects freedom, the latter extends a hand to those who want to join liberty. Poland plays the particularly crucial role of a regional pivot of the Intermarium: it is arguably the most stable, homogenous, populous, democratic, and prosperous nation in the region. If the U.S. withdraws from the region altogether, Pax Americana in Europe will be jeopardized. Resurgent Germany will ally itself with Russia to the detriment of world peace and other American interests, including economic.

Third, it is the economy, stupid. For the economy to prosper it must operate within a healthy, interconnected international system. The system is called Pax Americana. Without continued American presence in Europe, including the Intermarium and Poland, there will be no stability and security for continued growth and development of international trade and other forms of economic exchange until a new system is imposed upon the region. And there are no guarantees that the new system will be as salubrious to economic blooming as free-markets and free-thought driven American-led one.

The European Union functions and grows economically (even if it now has stagnated choking on its insane overregulation and devious social engineering) largely as a legacy of America’s protection of the Old Continent during the Cold War and in its aftermath. Abandoning Poland and the rest will undermine the whole of Europe. The EU will have no choice but, under Germany’s leadership, to seek a new leader and protector. In a nightmare scenario, it will be China and Russia. The latter will provide cheap labor, the former raw material; and both will supply military might. Thus, America may face a Festung (fortress) Europe hostile to Washington and enamored with Moscow and Beijing. And, it will be a Europe without a salubrious influence of its Americanophilic Central and Eastern part for the U.S. will have abandoned it. The policy of balancing the Americaphobic, western part of the continent jointly with Great Britain will be shattered. By the way, after the withdrawal from Europe, a strategic partnership between Israel and most nations of the post-Soviet zone, Poland in particular, will be terminated since the western part of the European Union tends to be quite hostile to the Jewish state. So America will be left with an untenable, tiny foothold on the edge of the Old World: Israel. And nothing else.

If all this, God forbid, comes to pass, a global conflict will inevitably develop and the United States, as usual, will be forced to intervene at a horrendous cost for itself. In contrast, keeping and supporting Poland and the Intermarium as an ally is a bargain for the American people from the point of view of their national interest and strategic goals. Let us remember that a U.S. withdrawal from the world will cause chaos and slavery. Poland is a part of Pax Americana’s bulwark of order and freedom.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is a Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, A Graduate School of National Security and International Affairs in Washington, DC, where he also holds the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies. Professor Chodakiewicz is author of Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.