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.