East Remains the Key Direction to Ensure National Security for Polish Policy

By Hanna Zarembo

After the year of 1990 Polish policy within eastern direction staked at the USSR collapse and establishment of the belt of free, liberal and friendly countries, a peculiar stable buffer zone protecting Poland from Russia. The slogan was the idea of Jerzy Giedroyc: “The stronger our position in East is, the more West shall take us into account”. 

 

In this respect logical priority was granted to the development of relations with Ukraine. Warsaw wanted to reduce influence on Kiev from Neo-Imperial Moscow, fairly suggesting that independent Ukraine would assist stability and security in the whole region of Central Europe. 

 

Polish leaders tried to solve this task acting in the role of “European attorney” of Kiev. They lobbied as closer integration of Ukraine with the European Union as possible with prospect of further joining of it to the bodies of the European community.

 

If before 2004 such policy was held quite carefully, as that time Ukraine was headed by the persons, balancing between the European Union and Russia, then later actions in this aspect were more active, moreover that Poland become a full-right member of the European Union. It’s enough to recollect active participation of Warsaw in the “orange revolution”, when it managed to attract attention of absolutely all European institutions to the events happening eastern to its borders. 

 

During the session of the Sejm on January 21st 2005 then Minister of Foreign Affairs Adam Rotfeld declared, that Poland shall provide overwhelming assistance to Ukraine, striving for its approach with West. When Viktor Yushchenko didn’t receive definite promises from the EU on inclusion of Ukraine into its members, Poles assessed such behavior as too careful. Later they with agitation reacted on the statement of the European Commissioner on Extension Gunter Verheugen, that the issue on Ukraine membership in the EU is not observed at all, as only Poland is interested in it.

 

Additional approach of Kiev and Warsaw occurred as a result of mutual wish to eliminate dependence from Russian gas supplies. With this goal Ukrainian government repeatedly suggested to extend gas pipeline Odessa-Brody to Plotsk and Gdansk, but due to different reasons they didn’t manage to fulfill this idea.

 

Eventually, exactly cooperation with Ukraine has become a key element of suggested by Poland together with Sweden the EU “Eastern Partnership” program.

 

But only political will of the leaders of Ukraine and Poland, and also rapidly depleted European enthusiasm towards Ukrainian democracy appeared to be insufficient to convince the European Union to approach with Ukraine significantly before it performs demanded economic and institutional reforms. 

 

Recent years turned out to be not the most successful and for Polish-Ukrainian strategic partnership. By this worsening started even by “orange” power, when Viktor Yushchenko, went deeply into nation-building, granted a title “Hero of Ukraine” to involved into mass murder of Poles during the Second World War Command-in-chief of UPA Roman Shukhevich and the leader of OUN Stepan Bander. Despite the statement of the Parties on absence of historic claims, in Polish and Ukrainian communities the reasons for mutual dislike still remain.

 

The next stage which started with coming to power in 2010 in the both countries of new Presidents – Bronislaw Komorowski and Viktor Yanukovych, can be called a period of more rational approach of Poland towards the issue of European integration of Ukraine. Warsaw recognized imperfectness of political and economic system of Ukraine and stopped the attempts to force its integration into the EU without considering real situation. Priority was given to gradual careful steps, which significantly corresponded the spirits of the European Union, which faced its own serious problems.

 

As a result Ukrainian-Polish relations became even cooler. The interest of Ukraine towards European integration reduced significantly, and Poland didn’t manage to force it do anything. Ukraine and the EU started negotiations on the Association Treaty in 2007. And they ended exactly during Polish Chairmanship in the European Union in December of 2011. This March 30th the Treaty was initialed by the Parties. 

 

Now some Ukrainian and other politicians predict that the Treaty can be signed already in course of Lithuanian Chairmanship in the EU, when in autumn 2013 in Vilnius there should be held the Summit of the EU project “Eastern Partnership” participants, where yet recently Ukraine has been entitled the role of the leader.

 

In case of coming into power, this Treaty – the biggest EU treaty with a non-member state – would make Ukraine the participant of European integration process. It would completely change the ground of the relations with Kiev and would assure extensive “Europeanization” of Ukrainian economy, political system and state management. Moreover it could become the first step on the way to full-right membership of the country in the EU.

 

However, considering the way Parliamentary elections in Ukraine in October were held, the prospects of signing of the Treaty in near future is quite doubtful. Almost all European structures judged the use by the power of administrative resources, unequal access of the candidates to Mass Media, falsification, political repressions and other realities of Ukrainian elections. 

 

Meanwhile, after the last year Summit of Ukraine – EU Brussels constantly allowed to understand that the quality of this campaign shall be defining for further cooperation. By this two other conditions, which were defined in bilateral agenda of the cooperation, remained not accomplished: ending of electoral court prosecution of the leaders of political opposition and holding of reforms first of all in legal sphere.

 

It leaves little hope, that the decision of the EU Ministerial Council on fate of the Treaty and in general the future of European policy towards Ukraine shall be positive. Doubts occurred about holding of another Ukraine-EU Summit planned to be held in the beginning of next year. Ukrainian foreign political establishment assures, that the event shall definitely be held, however there are doubts that it is a usual attempt to make a good face by a bad game.

 

Together with that, Poland, which cares about democratic transformations in Ukraine most of all EU states, didn’t really warned the last one for anti-democratic trends. In course of electoral campaign official Polish bodies, although noted disadvantages, didn’t allow harsh critic, and after the elections Komorowski declared that Poland observed reported falsification, and expressed hope for further approach with Ukraine. 

 

On November 4th Polish leader had a phone conversation with elected for the second term US President Barack Obama. The main subject of the discussion was Euro-integrational intentions of Ukraine, and also complicated political situation established there after the Parliamentary elections.

 

There are no doubts that in the situation established Poland shall go on supporting the plans of Ukraine to join the EU. However it shall have to face domestic problems of the European Union and its unwillingness to accept such a big country with a load of unsolved economic problems. This means that in the EU the issue of development of cooperation with Ukraine in the years to come shall evidently go to the background.

 

Naturally, signing of the Association Treaty first of all depends on Ukraine itself, its ability to make demanded reforms rapidly and efficiently in various spheres, which is constantly pointed by European politicians. However, consolidated line of Poland and Germany also plays its important role here. 

 

Yet such consolidation is not observed. This is proved by held on November 14th in Berlin Polish-German intergovernmental consultations. They showed that although the issue of cooperation with Kiev remained in agenda of European capitals, evident was the fact that views of the EU states, particularly Poland and Germany, differed significantly on such cooperation. 

 

During the final press-conference the Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk underlined that, Poland considers the possibility to sign the Association Treaty of Ukraine and the EU in November 2013, in course of Lithuanian Chairmanship in the EU Council. In her turn Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel noted that at the moment there are no prerequisites to sign this document, although Berlin shall be ready to do that in case of definite conditions fulfillment.

 

During recent debates in Warsaw on the subject of the policy of Poland and Germany towards neighbor-countries in East most experts and politicians stateв that official Warsaw and Berlin have no common line within “eastern” EU policy. 

 

They think that Warsaw gives greater priority to the countries of the “Eastern Partnership”, mainly Ukraine. Berlin acts under the principle “Russia first of all” and observers the Partnership states through the prism of Moscow interests. By this for Poland more important are political interests in East and for Germany – economic component, where absolute priority is granted to Russia due to multi-billion projects in energy sphere. 

 

I.e. for its own pragmatic interests Berlin ignores violation of democratic liberties in Russia, at the same time it constantly sets various conditions for Kiev. But an impression occurs that recently Germany has changed its views towards relations with Moscow. It seems that there they start doubting, is the stake only at Russia within Eastern policy the best variant.

 

It’s left to hope that expected evolution of views of Berlin at eastern policy in scope with the activity of Polish diplomacy shall allow changing German biases towards Ukraine and allow signing Association Treaty during Lithuanian Chairmanship in the EU.

 

By the way, there are no reasons to worry that the achievement of this result can be negatively affected by Polish-Lithuanian relations, which undergo not the best period at the moment. First of all, evidently for Warsaw approach between Ukraine and Europe is incomparably more important than not the most principal disagreements with Vilnius. Secondly, now other forces have come to power in Lithuania, they seem to prone less to confrontation with Polish minority, and in a year the situation can change significantly.

 

Just a few days ago deputy Head of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Poland Jerzy Pomianowski declared that he considers signing of the Association Treaty as a necessary step: “Poland and Europe should decide to sign it, despite various doubts, arising in Europe. We should understand that this is a sign for whole Ukrainian society”. According to him, only after signing of the Treaty Kiev can get closer to Warsaw and the EU in general. Except for that, he underlined that such document is anticipated for a long-term cooperation.

 

It’s noteworthy that attention given by Polish government to Ukraine is not supported by the whole country. There is for example a point of view that for Poland it’s better by all means to stimulate the idea of division of Ukraine, as there is a threat that current “Russian-Ukrainian” Ukraine shall be subordinated by Moscow, meanwhile it will be impossible to do so with “Ukrainian” Ukraine, and it has all chances to join the European Union. To the mind of such approach followers, the kind of Ukraine would be of no special threat, even if Kiev is ruled by only Banderas, as it would have been always interested in the good will of Poland.

 

There are also calls not to spare time and energy, demanded for modernization of own country, for eastern policy, and in general to limit it to two points: protection of Polish minority and maintenance  about places and units located out of eastern border, which possess great importance for Polish historic and cultural self-identification.

 

But, although the followers of such views can’t be treated as complete marginals, they do not produce sufficient influence on real policy.

 

* * *

 

So, for Polish security East is the key direction. Poland can build a powerful state supported by West, however it remains to be a border state of NATO and the EU, and it can’t allow itself to do without eastern policy. 

 

In any case its concept of security, sizes of Ukraine and its geographic location should be definitely considered. Russian choice of Kiev shall mean griping of Poland between big Europe and big Russia, which is absolutely inacceptable due to its negative historic experience. In addition the line of Poland itself in the EU mainly depends on that how efficient it is within interrelations with eastern neighbors.

 

In this respect officially declared priority of Polish policy towards Ukraine is involvement of Kiev into the EU, without which drifting of Ukraine towards Russia and the Customs Union is almost impossible. “Either the EU, or the CU – there is no third option”, - openly declared in September in Kiev Bronislaw Komorowski after the talks with Viktor Yanukovych. As due to known reasons we can’t talk about sooner membership of Ukraine in the EU, then we anticipate its restraint, as Turkey, at the periphery of the EU, but within the orbit of its influence.

 

To achieve the target set Poland could suggest the EU to make some steps, which don’t demand significant time and expenses:

- clearly outline the terms, in case of fulfillment of which by Ukraine the European Union shall sign the Association Treaty. Till now there have been multiple, not really coordinated declarations on this issue of European representatives. As a result it remained unclear, what Brussels expected from Kiev;

- publish the text of the Treaty, which is still hidden from Ukrainian people. Naturally this text is too long, hard to read and full of technical terms, but we can hardly expect many people would read it. However, at least, it can be analyzed by the specialists, and reporters shall present it to people in a more simple way;

- sign and ratify the Association Treaty with Moldova, without waiting for Ukraine. Thus Brussels shall prove its readiness to accomplish declared principle “more – for more”. Except for that, this shall compromise current Ukrainian leadership in the eyes of pro-European elites and people of the country;

- consider the issue of opening for Moldova direct prospect for the EU membership, although in quite far prospect;

- at max speed up process of liberalization of visa regime with Ukraine as existing limiting visa policy of Brussels negatively affects ordinary citizens of the country.

 

Unfortunately, we should agree with Donald Tusk, who declared: “Today it’s clear, that our partners in East shall be complicated partners for years ahead”. The main problem is that Kiev behaves itself quite not logically. We probably can now make a final conclusion that it’s impossible to demand some decisive steps towards the EU from the regime of Yanukovych. 

 

As a result, at this stage, the task of Poland now seems to be limited not to allow turning of Ukraine into a completely authoritarian country under strong influence of Moscow. Judging by all, Warsaw got used to the conclusion, that Kiev won’t become friendly in near future, and Moscow in its turn shall promote authoritarianism. That is why it’s only left to save the buffer zone, due that the leaders of Ukraine still prefer to rule independently, and not to turn into Kremlin’s satellites.

 

In this case it is in the essence a policy of pacification of Yanukovych’s regime. It’s easy to understand the logic of Polish leaders: he shall leave sooner or later, and Ukraine shall remain, But yet it’s impossible to state whether such strategy shall turn out to be the right one.

 

 

30.11.2012

 

 

 

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