Tag Archives: Russia

Strategic Value of Poland and the Intermarium

The following article by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz was published by the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research. The whole article can be found here.

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.

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.

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Is it time to revisit Putin’s role in the Smolensk crash?

The article below is written by IWP student and Kosciuszko Chair researcher Pawel Styrna.  The full article can be found on the website of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

After the Smolensk plane crash, the speed with which the disaster became – not unlike Benghazi – relegated to “yesterday’s news” was stunning. An uninformed observer might conclude that what happened at Smolensk was but a minor incident, and didn’t involve the deaths of Poland’s president, and almost one hundred members of the military and political elite of a key U.S.-Central European ally on NATO’s border with Russia.

Four years ago the Soviet-built Tupolev 154M jetliner carrying Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and First Lady Maria Kaczyńska, leading a delegation of 94 Polish government officials, including high ranking civilian and military officials, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre – crashed on April 10, 2010 killing all aboard before landing at Smolensk, Russia, just east of the Belarus border.

“They were supposed to attend a second memorial service,” wrote Professor Nicholas Dima at the time in his article “Katyn Tragedy Redux.” “The first one had been held three days earlier, but President Kaczyński was irritated because Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had invited only the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and the Russian leader had not mentioned the Polish officers massacred by the KGB (NKVD). Consequently, Kaczynski wanted a proper ceremony held at Katyn and was on his way to attend it.” There’s a school of thought that believes Kaczynski took the bait and fell into Vladimir Putin’s trap.

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“Minority rights” and post-Soviet imperialism

Following Russia’s invasion of the nation of Georgia in August 2008, Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz pointed out that Moscow will increasingly utilize the rhetoric of “minority rights” in its strategy of rebuilding its empire.

After all, Russia de facto annexed two Georgian provinces–Abkhazia and South Ossetia–under the pretext of defending the two ethnicities’ right to “self-determination” (i.e. secession). This amounted to their incorporation into the Russian Federation, the main successor state of the Soviet Union.

In 2014, the Kremlin is invoking its alleged right, and even duty, to protect ethnic Russians living in Ukraine from alleged Maidan “fascists.” So far, Vladimir Putin’s regime seized Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, but what will Moscow do next?

There are ethnic Russians residing throughout the former Bolshevik empire, including in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine and in the Baltic States. There are also disgruntled minorities in many other former Soviet republics, which means that the scenario may well again repeat itself. In its ideological warfare, the Kremlin hopes to exploit all the positive connotations that Western liberal elites associate with pro-“minority rights” phraseology.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s article from August 29, 2008, “Minority rights and imperial reintegration,” is thus as relevant now as it was back then. His analysis is available here.

Ukraine: What is to be done?

You are cordially invited to a lecture on the topic of

Ukraine: What is to be done?

Dr. Sebastian Gorka
Associate Professor of Irregular Warfare, National Defense University
Adjunct Professor at IWP

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz
Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies, IWP

Friday, March 21
1:00 PM

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Parking map


This lecture is sponsored by the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies.

 Kosciuszko Chair Logo

IWP Intermarium experts Dr. Gorka and Dr. Chodakiewicz will explain why the US has a pony in the running in the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict and will propose comprehensive remedies grounded solidly in integrated strategy.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka is an internationally recognized authority on issues of national security, terrorism, and democratization, having worked in government and the private and NGO sectors in Europe and the United States. He was born in the U.K. to parents who escaped Communism during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A graduate of the University of London and Corvinus University, Budapest, he was a Kokkalis Fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and holds a Ph.D. in political science. He is an associate fellow at the Joint Special Operations University (USSOCOM) and an assistant professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz is the current holder of the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies, which is now here at IWP.  He has authored numerous works in both English and Polish. While at the University of Virginia, he edited the Kosciuszko Chair’s bulletin: Nihil Novi.

Dr. Chodakiewicz writes weekly columns for popular Polish press and contributes to the SELOUS Foundation internet hub. He has also published on foreign policy in various venues, including The Journal of World Affairs,American Spectator, and National Review Online.

In addition to numerous popular and scholarly articles, Dr. Chodakiewicz authored, co-authored, edited, and co-edited over fifteen scholarly monographs and documentary collections. His latest include Intermarium: The Land Between the Black and Baltic Seas (2012), which is a depiction of the Eastern Borderlands of the West on the rim of the former Soviet Union, and On the Right and Left (2013), which is a textbook of intellectual history of modern ideologies. He translated and edited the correspondence of the Ulam family of Lwów to the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam at Harvard from 1936 until after the Second World War and co-edited a selection of Ronald Reagan’s speeches published as My Vision of America in Polish.

His interests include the post-Soviet zone, the Second World War and its aftermath, Europe in the 19th and 20th century, Western civilization and its intellectual tradition, extremist movements in history, conspiracy theory and practice, and comparative civilizations.

At IWP, Dr. Chodakiewicz teaches courses on  Genocide and Genocide Prevention, Geography and Strategy, and Russian Politics and Foreign Policy.  In addition, he leads directed studies.

Gen. Walter Jajko: Arm Ukraine

USAF Brigadier General (Ret.) and IWP professor of defense studies, Gen. Walter Jajko, published an article on the rapidly escalating situation in Ukraine. His analysis is the cover story of the March 5 issue (No. 10) of the Polish weekly, Gazeta Polska.

In the article, Gen. Jajko argues that “the US should deliver as quickly as possible anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, artillery, small arms, and helicopter gunships to western Ukraine. The long-term effects of subordinating Ukraine-a country of fifty million-to Moscow gives the Kremlin the ability to exercise hegemony over Eurasia, dictate terms to the European Union, and to systematically weaken NATO.”

Below is an English version of the article.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Brig. Gen. Walter Jajko are strictly his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense or The Institute of World Politics. .

For US and EU warmed-over Chicken Kiev?

Walter Jajko

Even before Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, I argued that the widespread popular nationalist revolt in Ukraine has the potential for a tectonic geostrategic transformation.*  Depending on the outcome, there could be a permanent shift benefiting either Russia or the West.  Based on the West’s record of talk and no action, the odds favor Russia.

Putin and his ilk believe that Ukraine is forever attached inseparably to Russia.  If Putin can hold Ukraine, Russia can rebuild its empire.  Without Ukraine there can be no reconstructed Russian empire.  Then, in the long term, Russia would be able to dominate Eurasia, subordinating the EU and hollowing out NATO.  In the near term, Russia can continue to threaten the Baltic States and Poland directly with force, as it has repeatedly, and Germany and Poland with nuclear missiles from its illegally occupied Kaliningrad.

If the West secures Ukraine, its independence and sovereignty – and ultimately its prosperity – will be solidified, the EU and potentially NATO would abut the very heartland of Russia, Belarus would collapse, and Europe genuinely would be whole and free and its eastern border secure.  Poland for the first time in its history would have a secure border widely separated from a diminished Russia by fundamentally friendly allied states.  Russia, with its declining population, notwithstanding its nuclear weapons and increasing oil and gas reserves, would be left a landlocked lesser power ruled by spooks and crooks, or as the Russians call them “thieves in law”, caught between the US and an assertive, much stronger China reclaiming its lost territories.

So far for the US, the Ukrainian revolt is, at heart, nothing more than an internal political dispute exacerbated by the regime’s Soviet-style gross human rights violations and protesters resorting to violence, though the US fears a Ukrainian civil war and or a Russian military invasion.  Still, the US would prefer to return to its quixotic pursuit of a strategic relationship with Russia  – even though its failed one-sided “reset” has bought only Russian active opposition to US policy on defensive missiles in Poland, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, and nuclear disarmament – and now Ukraine.  Obama continues to delude himself that there can be some sort of partnership while Russian principles, values, objectives, and methods are implacably hostile to the West.

Thus far, the US and EU have played a weak and marginal role in Ukraine, although their primary national security interests are at stake; their misperception of this stake is sustained by fear and wishful thinking.   Neither of them have the courage, resolve, and imagination to confront Russia directly with action.  Putin knows this.  The EU is deathly afraid of anyone raising the issue of force and Obama will not use force.  The US and EU have not taken sides forcefully supporting the pro-European Ukrainians.   So far, they have done no more than spout empty words – including Obama’s latest announcement of another useless “line” not to be crossed.  The EU and US did not even treat Yanukoyych as a dictator like Lukashenko.  That the US and EU, including Poland with the most to lose, urged only negotiations and mediation between Ukrainian freedom fighters and Yanukovych’s gangsters meant that Ukraine is not a security issue for them.

For Putin, Ukraine is a primary national security interest.   Putin certainly will not accept the loss of the Russian naval bases in the Crimea.   Putin also has limited, temporary use for a partitioned Ukraine, even if the Ukrainians themselves, east and west, agree to separate.  These will be strong indicators of an imminent Russian invasion.  Yanukovych’s flight to Kharkiv and attempt to fly out of Donetsk to Russia indicate that he cannot return to Kiev and is of limited value as a Putin puppet even in Left Bank or eastern Ukraine.   Yanukovych may return as a front man on the bayonets of the Russian Army only if Ukraine, at least Right Bank or western Ukraine, rejects any tie to Russia or a civil war begins.   Putin then almost certainly will render “fraternal assistance” on the “invitation” of Ukrainian “legitimate” authorities against “terrorists” supported by US “interference” in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

There are some practical steps that the US and EU can take immediately:  They can warn the Ukrainian Army to stand by its people and against the Russian Army, jointly with the IMF and European Central Bank raise $50-$100 B as a grant to Ukraine, and establish a strong covert action program, especially with Poland, as was done for Solidarity and Riukh, against Jaruzelski and the Soviet regimes.  The US separately could begin shipping anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles, artillery, small arms, and helicopter gunships to western Ukraine.

*   Since events transpired very quickly, a few comments are in order to update the article: 1.  Yanukovych is finished.  He is of no use to Putin even as a Russian stooge.  2.  The US (Secretary of State and National Security Advisor) finally has warned Putin that restitution, partition, and invasion are all unacceptable, although the US has made it clear that it will not send troops. 3.  Notwithstanding wishful thinking, the Ukrainian rising will not spread to Moscow.

The problem for Ukraine’s winning opposition is to rapidly restore public order, organize an effective government, and secure cash from the West.  Organizing political parties and the electoral process for 25 May elections is a formidable task.

Even if all this succeeds, the Kiev government and western Ukraine will have to work out a modus vivendi with Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  This will mean some kind of continuing relationship with Russia.

Pawel Styrna discusses the situation in Ukraine

On January 15, 2014, Paweł P. Styrna, Research Assistant at the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies, gave a lecture entitled “Ukraine: Between Scylla and Charybdis.” He reviewed the current situation in Ukraine, which, like many of the Intermarium regions, is caught between creating stronger ties with the European Union and with Russia.

This lecture is part of a series on the Intermarium region sponsored by the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies at The Institute of World Politics.

Ukraine: Between Scylla and Charybdis

You are cordially invited to a lecture on the topic of 

Ukraine: Between Scylla and Charybdis

Paweł P. Styrna 
Research Assistant, The Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies

and additional remarks from
Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Professor of History, The Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies

Wednesday, January 15
2:00 PM

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Please RSVP to sdwyer@iwp.edu.

This lecture is part of a series on the Intermarium region sponsored by the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies at IWP.

Ukraine–like so many of the other former “captive nations” of the Central and Eastern European Intermarium–faces a choice between Scylla and Charybdis: an increasingly bold and aggressive post-Soviet Russia, and a socialist-liberal EU hostile to the sovereign nation-state. Meanwhile, Obama’s America is indifferent to the region, and visions of a CEE geopolitical bloc are stalled and obstructed.

Paweł P. Styrna was born in Zabrze, Poland. His Master of Arts thesis analyzed the attitudes of the American, British, Belgian, Polish, and Soviet press vis-à-vis the Polish-Ukrainian Kiev Offensive against the Bolsheviks in 1920. He is working on a biography of Polish industrialist Leopold Wellisz and has written numerous book reviews for Glaukopis, Sarmatian Review and Najwyższy Czas! He co-editedGolden Harvest or Hearts of Gold? Studies on the Fate of Wartime Poles and Jews(2012) and authored the chapter entitled “The Tale of Two Hamlets: The Case of Wólka-Okrąglik and Gniewczyna.” Mr. Styrna is a Eurasia analyst for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR) and writes the blog Property Polska for the Journal of Property Rights in Transition.

Mr. Styrna was educated at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his Bachelor of Arts and his Master of Arts in modern European history, with minor specializations in Polish and Soviet history. He is currently enrolled in the international relations program at The Institute of World Politics and is a research assistant to the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies.

Vilen Khlgatyan gives a lecture on “Between Moscow and Brussels: Ukrainian and Armenian Dilemmas”

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, Vilen Khlgatyan, Vice-Chairman of the Political Developments Research Center and IWP Class of 2013, discussed “Between Moscow and Brussels: Ukrainian and Armenian Dilemmas.”

This lecture was sponsored by the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies at The Institute of World Politics.

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.