Author Archives: Pawel Styrna

About Pawel Styrna

I am a historian with an MA in modern European history from the University of Illinois at Chicago; a Eurasia Analyst for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR) News & Analysis Section; and a researcher for the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) in Washington, DC. I have written numerous articles on history and international affairs - focusing mostly, but not exclusively, on Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, the Intermarium, Russia) and Eurasia - and I have co-edited and contributed to an anthology on Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust entitled "Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold? Studies on the Fate of Wartime Poles and Jews" (Washington, DC: Leopolis Press, 2012).

Three years after the Smolensk Crash

Less than a month ago was the third anniversary of the tragic Smolensk Plane Crash, which was a great blow to our Polish ally within NATO. In a recent SFPPR News & Analysis article, Paweł Styrna summed up the many suspicious developments in the case that have continued to surface in the past three years, thereby demonstrating that the crash is by no means “yesterday’s news.”

Paweł Styrna is a student of international relations at The Institute of World Politics and a researcher and administrative assistant for the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies and the Institute. He is also a Eurasia analyst for SFPPR and has written and lectured on the Smolensk Plane Crash.

The views expressed in the article below are solely Mr. Styrna’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of World Politics or the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies.

Smolensk: An inconvenient tragedy
Three years following the suspicious Smolensk Plane Crash new developments and evidence continue to surface.

SFPPR News & Analysis
By Paweł Piotr Styrna
April 22, 2013

The Smolensk Plane Crash claimed the lives of the President of Poland, his wife, and 94 other members of the country’s patriotic and pro-American political and military elite.

Three years have passed since the suspicious Smolensk Plane Crash of April 10, 2010. During this time, new developments in the case occurred and evidence continued to surface. Most disturbingly, these findings have anything but dispelled doubts about the veracity of the official, FSB/KGB-manufactured Moscow-Warsaw “pilot error” line. Instead, they have consistently pointed in the direction of foul play. Since the mainstream media and public opinion in the West do not appear to have been following these developments or registered the geopolitical significance of Smolensk, it seems appropriate to elaborate on some of the more recent findings. For brevity’s sake, this article will mention only developments which occurred after mid-2012, for I have focused on the background and previous discoveries in two SFPPR News & Analyses articles.

Cyber attacks on the Polish Foreign Ministry

To begin with, we have learned that two cyber attacks—one on April 6, 2010, and another on April 10, i.e. the very day of the crash—temporarily crippled the Polish Foreign Ministry. Its employees thus had no access to servers with secret information, not to mention email or even telephones. On the day of the tragedy, the cyber attack even prevented the Foreign Ministry from receiving a list of passengers via email. This was discussed, in a June 2012 interview, by retired CIA new technologies and aviation expert, S. Eugene Poteat, who argued that it was quite likely that the culprits were hackers working for the post-Soviet regime in Moscow. After all, Russian cyber attacks had also paralyzed Estonia and Georgia (before the August 2008 invasion). Poteat, a professor at the DC-based Institute of World Politics, conducted the initial investigation of the crash that questions Russia’s claim the crash was a case of mere pilot error, leading others around the world to take a second look.

To continue reading this article, please visit SFPPR News & Analysis.

The Czech Republic: Between the EU and Russia

In his April 3 lecture, Mr. Matej Jungwirth, an intern at The Institute of World Politics, presented some of the most pressing international challenges that the Czech Republic faces today.

The tone and topics of the campaign of the recent presidential elections—the first direct presidential elections in the Czech History—were discussed, as well as the implications of the final outcome: the victory of the socialist candidate Miloš Zeman over the centrist conservative Karel Schwarzenberg, who is also current Foreign Minister.

Furthermore, Mr. Jungwirth analyzed the strained relationship that the Czech Republic has with both the EU and Russia. On one hand, the Czech Republic is in many respects an outlier within the EU; on the other hand, significant efforts are made by Russia to earn a key role in Czech energy security.

Mr. Jungwirth discussed the gas crisis of 2006 and interest of Russian state companies in the enlargement of the major Czech nuclear power plant Temelin. He pointed out that the new president wishes to pursue a pro-EU and, simultaneously, pro-Russian course. In contrast to his predecessor, the Euro-skeptic Vaclav Klaus, President Zeman allowed the EU flag to be raised above the Presidential Palace in Prague. Mr. Jungwirth also pointed out that Klaus had actually supported Zeman during his election campaign, a rather strange political bedfellow. This choice seems to be motivated by primarily personal, rather than ideological motives, testifying to the complexity of the Czech political scene.

Please click here for his power point presentation: Czech Republic Lecture by Matej Jungwirth

This lecture was part of a series on the Intermarium, organized by the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at IWP.

Dr. Chodakiewicz on the “Exceptional Conservative” Radio Show

Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz was interviewed on the “Exceptional Conservative” radio show on Thursday, 4 April. The show is available worldwide, including to our servicemen and women on all fronts.

The topics included the current crisis in the Far East, the future of NATO, and situation in the Levant.

Dr. Chodakiewicz advised that the first step to defuse the war scare on the Korean Peninsula would be to negotiate with China. After all, Beijing uses Pyongyang as a proxy to divert American energies, and it can also rein the North Koreans in. He continued that the most likely cause of Kim Jong-un’s saber-rattling is a scheme to extract more aid from the United States and to intimidate both his own subjects and his neighbors with a show of force. Undoubtedly the young Kim wishes to breathe new life in the perpetual state of emergency that is North Korea’s raison d’etre and, perhaps, to upstage his own predecessors. Dr. Chodakiewicz also pointed out that one of the reasons preventing South Korea from reuniting the peninsula and wiping out the communist tyranny in Pyongyang is internal subversion. For instance, leftist teachers whitewash the north and inculcate young South Koreans, including army recruits, to blame the US for the Korean War of 1950-1953.

In any case, the United States must not “lead from behind,” but should assure the regional players and allies that Washington is committed to their defense. To accomplish this, we would be prudent to exhaust all of the available instruments of statecraft. For example, missile defense installations in Guam may be part of a strategy to deter North Korea, even if states such as China and Russia perceive US-led missile defense as a “threat.” Naturally, countries which view us as enemy number one will always view any strengthening of our defensive capabilities as a “danger.” Otherwise, if the United States fails to lead, other East Asian states threatened by North Korea and China—including Japan—may pick up the sword once again, further destabilizing the Pacific Rim.

Dr. Chodakiewicz also discussed the situation on the western edges of Eurasia. He argued that, in spite of the weakening of its cohesion after the implosion of the Soviet Union, NATO should be maintained. In short-run, we need NATO for logistical reasons. It is important to remember that we would be unable to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without the hub in Germany. In the long-run, we have nothing else to replace NATO with. Further, dismantling the alliance would only embolden post-Soviet Russia and anti-American forces in Europe. Thus, a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis would be a likely result.

To listen to the entire broadcast, please visit the “Exceptional Conservative” Radio Show.

Red China’s grand strategy

The Moving Wall of China’s Red Dragon Empire

SFPPR News & Analysis
By Marek Jan Chodakiewicz

March 15, 2013

In case you haven’t noticed, post-Maoist China has been moving. Quite a bit. China’s ubiquity is jarringly palpable, for instance its demographic and economic presence in all major maritime chokepoints save for Gibraltar. This is the logic of a waxing empire. A growing economy demands raw materials; goods produced require markets. Supply and trade routes as well as sources of minerals necessitate military and diplomatic protection. Each outpost must be shielded: on land, sea, space, and cyberspace. Protecting entails securing neighboring space. Each new outpost requires further protection. Hence, we are witnessing multidimensional Chinese expansionism everywhere. It is not spontaneous but, instead, follows a grand imperial strategy. For now, China is ostensibly satisfied with a status of a regional empire in eastern and southern Asia, but its ambitions are obviously global.

However, most observers view China as stationary. Its serpentine land borders are supposed to be set in stone as is “the Great Wall,” but in fact they are increasingly porous and flexible as evidenced by Beijing’s robust meddling among its contiguous neighbors along the great crescent running from Vietnam to South Korea. The Chinese satellite system is sometimes referred to as “the Great Wall in space,” notwithstanding its dynamic, aggressive attributes. And the Chinese government’s muscular naval policy is, of course, dubbed a “maritime Great Wall.” This allegedly defensive naval feature has a capacity to project Beijing’s power well beyond the country’s territorial waters. Many observers seem to overlook the fact that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) with a modern war fleet – which includes its freshly acquired first aircraft carrier – is no longer just an ancillary to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with its primitively ruthless human wave attacks. A large navy is a sure sign of imperialism, or at least an ability to operate globally. So is a nation’s ambition to project its power into space via missile and satellite systems, both evident in Beijing’s growing arsenal.

To continue reading, please visit the SFPPR News & Analysis section.

The current historiography on the Intermarium: Hetherington, Kunicki, Applebaum

During the Wednesday, 13 February, Intermarium lecture, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz discussed and compared three recent works on twentieth-century Polish history:

Hetherington’s book is a labor of love by a geologist-turned-amateur-historian. Kunicki’s book on Bolesław Piasecki is just the opposite. The object of Hetherington’s admiration is interwar Poland’s strongman, Józef Piłsudski. Originally a patriotic socialist revolutionary with an eighteenth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuanian noble mentality, Piłsudski moved somewhat to the right after seizing power in Warsaw in a coup (May 1926).

Kunicki’s “whipping boy,” in turn, was a radical nationalist leader in interwar Poland and an anti-Nazi, anti-Soviet underground resistance commander during the war. Following his arrest by the newly-imposed communist regime, Piasecki chose to collaborate with his captors. Until his death, he ran a “progressive Catholic” organization/publishing house known as PAX.

Hetherington is sometimes apologetic towards his hero and unfair towards Piłsudski’s detractors, but his book is generally useful, particularly for the English-speaking audience. Kunicki’s work, on the other hand, was originally written as a doctoral dissertation almost a decade ago and hasn’t been updated by the author since. It contains no original scholarship and falls into the category of the “blame nationalism for communism’s sins” genre.

Like Hetherington’s biography, Anne Applebaum’s study of the Sovietization of Central and Eastern Europe after the Second World War is a step in the right direction. Unlike many postmodern scholars in the world of academia, who deny that communism was totalitarian, Applebaum has no qualms about calling a spade a spade. Overall, she understands that the entry of the Red Army into Central Europe in the wake of the retreating Wehrmacht was by no means a “liberation,” but a swap of occupations. She is also fair to usually vilified segments of the Polish anti-communist underground. Applebaum also emphasizes that communism destroyed the spirit of cooperation and charity.

It is a pathetic reflection of the state of the historical profession in the era of postmodernism that a journalist and a geologist are capable of more insightful and objective work on the history of Poland than a professional historian.

Intermarium now available via eBook

Intermarium, by Mark ChodakiewiczDr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz’s Intermarium: The Land Between the Black and Baltic Seas (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012) is now available in a convenient eBook form. Thus, it can now be read using Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony eReader, and many other devices.

The book is a history of Central and Eastern Europe and attempts to restore the region between the Black and Baltic Seas—which for centuries constituted the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—as a historical and cultural entity of its own. This is a long-awaited response to and corrective of hostile narratives inspired by the propaganda of powers which invaded, partitioned, and occupied the Intermarium during various periods of its history. Dr. Chodakiewicz, however, encourages us to view this eastern rampart of the West not from the perspective of Moscow or Berlin, but through the eyes of its own people, who are slowly rediscovering their roots after decades of destructive communism.

To purchase your Intermarium  eBook please visit the Transaction Publishers website.

The Red October Virus: A pretext for Putin’s crackdown

Recent revelations of the damage inflicted on computer systems in 39 of the world’s countries—including the United States and Russia—by the spy virus “Red October” have generated a storm, as described in Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz’s analysis for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR).

The infection’s provenance cannot be determined at this point, nor can the exact scope and nature of its harvest. It is evident, however, that the virus provided the Kremlin a pretext to facilitate the reintegration of the post-Soviet sphere, which is Putin’s geostrategic goal, and to further crack down on freedom. After all, the successors of the KGB have been learning from their Chinese communist secret police counterparts about internet censorship. Thus, Dr. Chodakiewicz concludes, one should not discount “Red October” as an FSB provocation.

To read Dr. Chodakiewicz’s article, please visit the SFPPR website.

Paweł Styrna delivers lecture on Smolensk Plane Crash

On January 30, as part of our ongoing series on the Intermarium, the Kościuszko Chair’s research assistant, Mr. Paweł Styrna, spoke about recent developments regarding the Smolensk Plane Crash of April 2010. He has written two substantive articles on the disaster and delivered a previous lecture about it at IWP in May 2011.

The crash claimed the lives of all the 96 passengers on board—including the Polish presidential couple and many members of the nation’s political and military elite—who were heading to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre, where the Soviets had slaughtered 25,000 Polish officers and members of other social leadership strata in 1940. The circumstances of the crash were highly suspicious. Moscow’s stone-walling and Warsaw’s docility only helped fuel the impression that the catastrophe was more than just a tragic accident.

The Kremlin released its official report on the crash in January 2011 (the MAK Report), which pinned the entire blame on the Poles. The government in Warsaw—apparently fearing to displease Moscow—published its own report (i.e. the Miller Commission Report) in July 2011, which pointed out some Russian shortcomings but generally did not challenge the MAK narrative. Since the crash and the publication of these documents, the official version has been debunked by an independent commission in the Polish parliament (the so-called Macierewicz Commission) and several scientists and experts. IWP professor Gene Poteat made the initial investigation of the crash that questioned Russia’s claim the crash was pilot error, leading others around the world to take a second look. Poteat was not clairvoyant, but he understood Communism’s murderous history, much of what he acquired as a student at IWP. University of Ohio engineering professor Wiesław Binienda proved that a birch tree could not have possibly snapped off the tip of the plane’s left wing. He also emphasized that the disintegration of the wreckage coupled with the lack of a crater show that the plane did not crash. Kazimierz Nowaczyk and Grzegorz Szuladziński, in turn, pointed to two explosions as the most probable culprits.

Yet, many new revelations surfaced since these discoveries. For instance, the Russians clearly mixed up the bodies of the crash victims which they had thrown into coffins that were riveted shut and sent them to Poland. Since the families of the victims protested that they were never even allowed to see the bodies of their loved ones, the Polish government eventually agreed to exhumations. In one case (in September 2012), the family of the “Mother of Solidarity,” Anna Walentynowicz, was unable to recognize her. Even more disturbingly, in late October the Polish public learned that forensic experts working for the Polish prosecutor’s office discovered traces of TNT on the wreckage of the aircraft (which remains in Russia to this day due to Moscow’s refusal to return it). This eventually led to a recent request by the European Union to return the wreckage. On the other hand, in early December, the Obama administration turned down a petition to support an independent and international investigation of Smolensk. Since much of the evidence points in the direction of foul play, Smolensk has, after all, become a quite inconvenient issue. That, however, shouldn’t mean that the inquisitive should refrain from researching it.

Mr. Styrna concluded by pointing out that the Smolensk Plane Crash changed the geopolitical situation in the Intermarium. Warsaw abandoned Lech Kaczyński’s policy of rallying Central and Eastern European/post-Soviet nations around Poland. The states of the region fell in line to accommodate the Kremlin, which, under Putin, has been attempting to reintegrate the post-Soviet sphere. Now that Kaczyński is dead and Obama has shown disinterest in Central and Eastern Europe, there is little to stop the reintegration.

For the historical context and further details, please see Paweł Styrna’s articles on Smolensk on the website of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR).

Note: The views and hypotheses expressed by Mr. Styrna in his lecture are purely his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of World Politics or the Kościuszko Chair.

Responding to distortions about Poland’s Catholic Church by the New York Times

A version of this article was posted here: “Responding to Distortions About Poland’s Catholic Church by The New York Times,” The Post Eagle [Clifton, NJ] 6 February 2013.


Your obituary of late Cardinal Joseph Glemp, Catholic Primate Emeritus of Poland, was rather uncharitable and inaccurate.

First, Glemp’s predecessor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, was not “a thundering autocrat” but a realistic politician, suave diplomat, and firm prelate. He was no Cardinal József Mindszenty who defended Hungary’s Catholic Christianity through public defiance of the Communists. His Polish counterpart usually avoided open confrontation with the Soviet puppet-regime and preferred to work for the Church and his flock behind the scenes. While remaining unbending about the principles, which eventually landed him in jail, Wyszyński preferred tactical compromise. Most of all, Wyszyński wanted to prevent bloodshed and always opposed violence. He was Glemp’s master. The latter’s tenure as a primate should be viewed as continuity of Wyszyński’s line without the master’s royal charisma. It is inaccurate to separate the policies of both men.

Second, you dwell on Glemp’s awkward statements about Jewish-Catholic/Polish relations which caused the churchman to be “dogged by the allegations of anti-Semitism.” The quotation you use about “dear Jews” and “esteemed Jews” reflects the spirit of love and reconciliation with which Glemp thought he was infusing his message to the Jewish people. Then he proceeded to structure his speech with unfortunate clichés which, by the way, continue to function widely around the world. For example, they were replicated recently by Rupert Murdoch who was reprimanded by the ADL’s Abraham Foxman for it. Like Murdoch, Glemp apologized several times for offending. Give him a break, posthumously at least.

Third, you have broached the topic of the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz. Yet, you fail to explain the controversy fairly. Pace your opinion, the Vatican did not agree to move the convent in 1987. A solitary liberal Polish Catholic bishop did make a vague and unauthorized sympathetic statement at a Swiss meeting with Jewish leaders who took it seriously as a promise and pressed resolutely toward that objective afterwards. A crisis ensued, for no one on the Catholic side was prepared to deal with the issue comprehensively. So much for the origins of the campaign to evict the nuns, which was eventually adjudicated by Pope John Paul II to conform with the Jewish sensitivities.

Further, you have also failed to explain the reason for the presence of the Carmelites at Auschwitz. Most victims, over 1.1 million (and not “millions” as you would have it), of this death factory were Jewish. However, it has escaped you that about 150,000 of them were Polish Catholics. In the 1980s, the nuns set up a convent close to a Nazi execution spot, where Christians, mostly Catholics, had been killed, to pray for all victims. Since the nuns were not experts on Jewish theology, they had no idea that it would be offensive to the Orthodox adherents of Judaism and their supporters to do so. In fact, most Christians were astounded to learn that. The nuns had no clue that the spirit of ecumenism was unwelcome in this instance. Moreover, their convent was quite far away from the main killing ground of Auschwitz, the death camp at Birkenau where the bulk of the Jewish victims had perished. That Auschwitz was also a slaughterhouse for the Christian Poles has been acknowledged by no less a place than the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which—on Holocaust Memorial Day, coinciding with the Soviet entry into Auschwitz in January 1945—recognizes one of the Polish resistance heroes, Captain Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz so he could inform the world about this secret German installation. A few words about such common historical facts would have contextualized the Carmelite convent controversy properly and anchored Glemp’s support for the nuns accordingly.

Fourth, your facts about Jedwabne are incorrect. A preliminary archeological and forensic investigation, terminated prematurely by the Polish authorities because of the pressure of a few rabbis (because of Jewish Orthodox strictures against handling human remains), suggests that the victims were not “1,600” but perhaps 300, and that there were bullet casings present at the crime scene. Since carrying arms was a capital crime for anyone not German in Nazi-occupied Poland, the perpetrators had to be the Nazi police or military. My own work strongly points to German complicity in the murder with some local help: The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After (Columbia University Press/East European Monographs, 2005). Since the Jedwabne murder was not properly investigated in 2001, Glemp refused to participate in the phony show of lachrymosity that the post-Communist President Aleksander Kwasniewski put on to score political points and deflect accusations of complicity of his “social-democratic” party, including some in his immediate entourage, for the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968. The Cardinal refused to help the post-Communists to legitimize themselves and to dupe the West. Instead, he held a high profile church service in Warsaw begging Jews for forgiveness for the Polish sins against them. This somehow escaped you.

Fifth, you also tar Poland’s only evangelical radio station—Radio Maryja—with a brush of anti-Semitism. In 2007 a team of leftist graduate students led by a former Communist party member now turned liberal gay scholar monitored the radio 24/7 for a month and, to their own shock and dismay, found no trace of anti-Semitism in its broadcasting. The results were published as Ireneusz Krzemiński, ed., Czego nas uczy Radio Maryja [What we learn from Radio Maryja] (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Akademickie i Profesjonalne, 2009). Please check your facts more carefully.

Sixth, you write that “despite an increasingly secularized population, Cardinal Glemp advanced his agenda” in the public square, supporting Catholic education and pro-life legislation. It was not Glemp’s private agenda but, rather, the Catholic Church’s. And the Church consists both of the religious and the laity, the people. Since the Poles remain overwhelmingly Catholic the reforms introduced in the 1990s after the collapse of Communism still stand. They reversed democratically previous legislation that had been imposed on Poland by totalitarianism. That much should be obvious even to you.

Printing this would do much to reverse a sordid legacy of The New York Times’ almost invariable provision of negative commentary on Poland and her affairs since the middle of the 19th century. Don’t take my word for it. IWP’s Kościuszko Chair assistant Pawel Styra has prepared a scholarly monograph on the topic. Time to face the music.


Marek Jan Chodakiewicz