Hardly four months have passed since those who supported the Maidan revolution in Ukraine promised us, and the people of that unfortunate country, a liberal democratic paradise. Instead, as those of us not willfully blind to reality warned, there is now a major land and air war taking place in the heart of Europe, and more people have died in that war than at any time since 1939.
To be precise, hundreds of people now die on a daily basis, both military and civilian. This war could have been avoided, even after the coup d’etat which ousted Ukranian’s former President Viktor Yanukovich, by supporting the idea of self-determination in Ukrain’s administrative regions. Proof of this is to be found in Crimea, which voted for independence and then federation with Russia. During this entire process, two casualties were reported in an incident on a military base. Today, Crimea is at peace. Independent of whether or not someone thinks Crimea should or should not be part of Russia, the undeniable fact is that the people of Crimea are not dying and their homes are not being destroyed, nor their children conscripted into the army to fight their own brothers. No decent and honest human being can deny that when one juxtaposes the present peace in Crimea with the mass warfare taking place in the Donbas, in Luhansk and in Slovyansk, it is obvious that self-determination, even if it meant the peaceful territorial disintegration of Ukraine, was the better policy.
Current events make this policy impossible to pursue, because under conditions of war, no voting (much less calm debate and deliberation) can take place. Only a cessation of fighting can bring about the conditions for functional liberal democracy. Sadly, the policy of the Ukranian government now is not to end the war and allow the people to vote, it is to prosecute the war against the separatist forces until those forces are destroyed, even if it means destroying the cities which are home to the separatists, and thus destroying the lives of the Ukrainian people themselves. Under the present conditions, it is impossible to know with any level of accuracy just how many of the people in the East and South desire political independence. We do know that the recent Presidential elections following the illegal coup d’etat were conducted under conditions of war or the threat of war, and that their results can at best be considered a partial legitimization of the current President (whose powers have been curtailed anyways by the Maidan, which overthrew the former constitution which had given the President broader powers). Under the circumstances, the current government (which is actually still the Maidan government, since the Prime Minister remains the coup appointed Mr. Yatsenyuk) hopes to use the undoubted military advantage of a conventional army against the separatists. Even with minimal Russian support in the form of arms, the separatists stand little chance of winning. Yet, as with any guerrilla war, they also will not “lose.” If peace does not come within the next few months, Ukraine will collapse as a functional civil society and be reduced to absolute poverty and political impotence. Peace can only come if Kiev lets the Donbas go according to its own will, just as Moscow let Kiev go when the Soviet Union broke apart.
The fact of the matter is that Ukraine has lost its historical chance at establishing itself as a relatively peaceful and prosperous nation-state. Even if the government wins the war, it will lose the peace, just as it has done incrementally since 1993, because the tensions within the multi-ethnic state have never been resolved adequately, and the chance to resolve them through economic growth has passed. Ukraine is a failed state. It must be allowed to disintegrate peacefully like Czechoslovakia or risk the horrible and bloody disintegration that was the sad fate of Yugoslavia. Above all, Europe, Russia and the United States cannot “take sides” in an explicitly military sense because this would risk a wider war. A wider war is in no one’s interests. The present war in Ukraine is not a war between democracy and tyranny, but between billionaire oligarchs vying for territorial control, oblivious to the suffering of human beings caught in the crossfire of history.
Unfortunately, what is still a containable, limited civil war could become a wider European war if the Polish government’s insane and treasonous notion of creating a joint Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade to take part in the Ukraine Civil War is put into effect. This idea, first floated by a Polish EMP a few years ago, and based on the inclusion of Ukranian soldiers in the Polish military contingent in the Iraq war, has unfortunately not died and attempts are once again under way to execute the idea. The creation of a joint Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade would have far-reaching and catastrophic consequences and the fact that the Polish government is considering it invites serious doubts as to the mental sanity of the government, not to mention constituting an act of treason against the Polish nation, which has nothing to do with the Ukranian civil war and has no interest in a wider war against any of the warring factions in Ukraine, let alone against Poland’s third largest trade-partner, Russia.
If a joint Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade is established and deployed on Ukrainian soil, then two NATO members will be engaged in direct military conflict on behalf of a non-NATO military entity without the consent of the other NATO members. This would almost surely divide the Alliance and effectively cancel any possibility for concerted NATO policy in the region, leaving Poland abandoned and alone. If all of NATO consents to the establishment and deployment of the Brigade, then Poland (if its government were rational and sane) would insist not on a “Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian” Brigade, but on a NATO-Ukranian Brigade, where the NATO component would be composed of soldiers from a multiplicity of NATO member states. Ironically, Russia floated the idea of a multinational peacekeeping force long before the hostilities became out of control. Of course, it is doubtful that a NATO-Ukranian Brigade would have any political chance of being created, since none of the Western powers have any interest or ambition in sending troops to the Ukraine. NATO might consent to a Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade, but Poland is governed by deluded men if they think that the simple fact that the Brigade will formally be composed of NATO members (Poland and Lithuania) will guarantee the future engagement of Western armies. All of history and elementary logic suggests that the West would wait to see how the situation plays out and enter the stage at a time that is most convenient, and in a manner most conducive to Western interests—which by that time might be peace at the price of not only a territorially reduced Ukraine, but a Poland whose western regions are re-occupied by Germany (call it a “joint NATO German-Polish Defense Brigade”). German military re-occupation of Poland, under the auspices of NATO and the EU would be the obvious logical consequence of any wider Polish-Ukrainian war, because Germany has the economic and military resources, and will quickly rediscover the political will, to do it—all with the support of the United States, Great Britain and France—if it could “secure” Eastern Europe.
This is not my imaginary fantasy scenario. The practical basis of this scenario is visible in the foreign policies of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, all of whom have explicitly rejected the permanent stationing of foreign soldiers on their soil, even if they are NATO soldiers. Hungary and Slovakia have signed mutually beneficial gas deals with Russia, just as Germany has, and focused on pursuing their own interests, growing their own economies and staying out of the Ukrainian civil war. In any eventual wider war, barring total conventional war or nuclear war, these countries would not find themselves threatened by Germany or by Russia. Germany has no interest in deploying soldiers or re-occupying lands where its economic interest is already well established. Russia has no interest in deploying soldiers or re-occupying lands where its economic interest is already well established. Neither Russia, nor Germany, are under the sway of expansionist revolutionary ideologies which would compel them to engage in irrational imperial adventures.
However, Germany could, in future, like modern Japan in Asia, find itself being asked by the United States to shoulder a heavier military responsibility on the Continent or simply compelled by circumstance to do so. Anglo-American weariness with Continental problems leaves France and Germany as the Continent’s regional powers (France militarily, as a fully autonomous nuclear power, Germany economically and potentially as a conventional military power). Polish foreign Minister Radek Sikorski’s statement that he “fears the lack of German leadership more than German tanks” could come back to haunt Poland. If a Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade arises and becomes embroiled in a wider European war, German troops and German tanks will be rolling back into Warsaw to defend Europe’s Eastern flank and provide assistance to the 600 rotating American soldiers President Obama has now stationed in Poland. Supported by an America unwilling to bear the costs of permanent military bases in Poland, Germany will resume the historical duties of Prussia and Austro-Hungary, while Warsaw will find itself reduced to its Cold War status: a formal Polish State with no real sovereignty.
All of the amazing gains made by Poland in 1989: the peaceful withdrawal of all foreign soldiers, the establishment of real sovereignty and the establishment of peaceful relations with both East and West, will be lost. Poland, which managed to establish itself as a free market economy, as an exemplary Christian nation which forgives its former enemies and pursues peace, trade and culture, will be transformed into a German satellite state on the West and will be hated by every one of the hundreds of Ukrainian families whose loved ones died for nothing in a Polish-inspired Maidan and Polish-supported Ukrainian civil war. Poland seems oblivious to the fact that for every Western Ukranian Poland “supports”, it makes an enemy of his brother in the East. This is a road to historical catastrophe.
Given these grim prospects, why is Poland pursuing this course of action? If Polish statesmen are convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Russia is bent on re-building its’ Empire, “first Georgia, then Ukraine, then Poland”, then why are Poland’s smaller and weaker neighbors unconvinced? Why is even Georgia now pursuing rapprochement with Russia after the catastrophe of the Shakasvilli administration which gained Georgians nothing but destruction? Could it be that Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania have less reason to fear Russia? Did these smaller nations not suffer the same Soviet domination that Poland suffered? Why are they not clamoring for “American bases”? Perhaps it is because having experienced occupation armies from East and West running roughshod over their nations, those smaller nations realize that their priority must be to keep all foreign troops off their soil and engage in high levels of economic cooperation with the Great Powers so as to make the prospect of aggressive war by one of them (barring the rise of neo-Napoleonic ideology) simply too costly. Perhaps these smaller nations do not want to squander their historical chance at peace and prosperity on some foolish military adventure in Ukraine, fighting for the 16th richest billionaire on earth against common people who feel disenfranchised, cheated and are now pawns of Russian oligarchs, having effectively lost the last bits of their country’s independence due to the foolish faith in foreign inspired street revolutions? None of these countries, unlike Poland, deludes themselves into believing that Jacobinism’s anti-Russian and anti-Prussian crusades were revolutions in support of prolonged national independence. They recognize that every demagogue yearning for war preaches the liberation of nations on his path of conquest and that sovereignty must be gained through self-reliance and kept through responsible self-government.
All of these points seem so obviously logical and sane that it defies belief that Poland’s rulers are actually pursuing a policy that will put Poland at war with the Ukranian separatists and potentially with a Russia that, in spite of overwhelming domestic public and political pressure to invade and occupy the Donbas—has limited itself to arms supplies for the separatists and is willing to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis. So again: why are Poland’s rulers doing this? Are they tired of living? Do they think the economic and cultural wealth the Polish people have generated since 1989 should now be spent and destroyed for one of the most unstable and corrupt governments on Earth; the oligarchy of Ukraine? Is the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the preservation of its oligarchs more important to the Polish government than Polish national security and Polish liberty?
No Polish government has been this short-sighted since the Poles marched into Czechoslovakia in 1938, with Hitler’s forces. As historian Richard M. Watt recounts in his book Bitter Glory: “Amid the general euphoria in Poland—the acquisition of Teschen was a very popular development—no one paid attention to the bitter comment of the Czechoslovak general who handed the region over to the incoming Poles. He predicted that it would not be long before the Poles would themselves be handing Teschen over to the Germans,” adding that “the Polish 1938 ultimatum to Czechoslovakia and its acquisition of Teschen were gross tactical errors. Whatever justice there might have been to the Polish claim upon Teschen, its seizure in 1938 was an enormous mistake in terms of the damage done to Poland’s reputation among the democratic powers of the world.” If Poland succeeds in creating and deploying a Polish-Ukranian-Lithuanian Brigade to Ukraine, it will go down in history as the most catastrophic act to ever befall Poland, more catastrophic than what happened in 1938, because while Hitler and Stalin existed in 1938, they are nowhere to be seen in 2014. Entering the Ukrainian civil war, Poland is not preempting anything, it is only inviting its own demise for the next thousand years as a sovereign nation. Europeans can only pray that the present Polish government, shaken by domestic scandal, collapses before it has the chance to execute this insane policy, or, failing that, the decades old Lithuanian-Polish conflicts over minorities and language make the venture impossible. Otherwise, look for calls for German tanks to follow on the heels of the present calls for German leadership.
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