“Provoking Russia” – How the RAND Corporation shapes Poland’s foreign policy

This text is based on an article originally published in the Polish weekly Myśl Polska. You can find the original text (in Polish) here.

There is no doubt that the US is pursuing a policy of interference in political choices and processes in all corners of the globe. It does not necessarily do it through secret services or other government agencies; organizations and foundations financed by a conglomerate of state organs and corporate capital play an increasingly important role. The RAND Corporation is one of the most active structures of this type.

RAND permanently employs over 1,800 people, working not only in its branches in various US states, but also in Europe (Brussels, Cambridge) and Australia. The published financial statement for 2018 shows that RAND Corporation received payments in the amount of USD 345 million, with over 282 million of this amount coming from the federal level administration (ministries, agencies, army, special services). European think-tanks can only dream about this scale of funding.

It is, moreover, one of the symptoms of a kind of privatization of public administration competences in the United States, which consists in the delegation of some tasks by government entities to private centers. In other countries, the tasks carried out by RAND would be carried out by government analytical centers and strategies. The structure and positioning of this research institute, however, allow much greater flexibility, which in practice consists, among others, on the possibility of functioning outside the home country and the implementation of operations that a country could not or – for image reasons – would not like to implement. The voice of RAND shapes the views of at least some of in the US policy elite, in particular the so-called interventionists. One of the last significant documents published by the think tank based in California is the report entitled “Extending Russia. Competing from Advantageous Grounds”.

The document outlines the main goals of American policy towards the Russian Federation, recognizing that “the United States must use competitive advantages to cause Russia’s military and economic exhaustion, as well as make its regime lose internal and / or international prestige and influence” (p. iii). The recommendations of RAND Corporation and other neo-conservative think-tanks would not be feasible, if not for the cooperation of the United States with local “allies”. It is quite obvious that Poland is one of them, in particular under the rule of Law and Justice.

Poland is to act as a center for taking actions directed openly against Russian interests. “Increasing the possibility of Europe importing gas from directions other than Russian will lead to a situation in which the United States will be able to use its competitive advantage against Russia; it is a long-term strategy of weakening Russia’s economy and creating a barrier between it and Europe. Europe is slowly moving in this direction, building more liquefied gas terminals” (p. xiii) – we read in the report. It is not surprising in this context that the first supplies of American blue fuel to the LNG terminal in Świnoujście are welcomed by RAND experts (p. 64).

Another task of Poland, according to the RAND instructions, would be for Polish political elites to destabilize the political situation in post-Soviet countries, with particular emphasis on Ukraine and Belarus. In the case of Ukraine, the effects of these actions are widely known, although the issue of estimating the impact of the activity of Polish government and non-governmental agencies on the events of the turn of 2013 and 2014 remains controversial. The explicit verbal support of the two largest political formations for the coup in Kiev did not leave any illusions and it was inscribed entirely in implementation of the recommendations of strategists from Washington.

The authors of the RAND report rightly state that: “NATO countries closer to Russia, such as Poland, generally have a more hawkish view of Ukraine, while Western European governments remain cautious” (p. 102). However, the problem of Belarus remains. In the text, it is rightly recognized that “Belarus is Russia’s only authentic ally. Effective promotion of the change of the regime there and pro-Western policy orientation would be a strong blow to Moscow” (p. xvi).

It is enough to analyze Polish policy towards Minsk over the past two decades to recognize that, and in this respect, American neoconservative recommendations are being met with extreme zeal. Yes, there were periods of relative relaxation, and even moments when a form of dialogue was resumed, but the general line, consisting in delegitimizing the power of Alexander Lukashenko, remained rather unchanged. RAND analysts are aware of the dangers of a possible coup as a result of the staged “colorful revolution” in Belarus. They argue that the implementation of such a scenario could lead to a mass influx of refugees to neighboring countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia), as well as trigger a forced reaction of the Kremlin.

However, they assume that this would be another element of the Russian Federation’s involvement in costly and absorbing activities, additionally provoking Moscow to ill-considered movements that could prevent its dialogue with Europe. Therefore, they regret the partial lifting of sanctions and restrictions targeted at Belarus by the European Union in 2015.

The third element of Polish policy in recent years, which is an evident reflection of the wishes of American hawks, are actions in the sphere of defense, or more precisely – the militarization of our region of Europe. The authors of the RAND study admit that their goal is to provoke Moscow in the hope that under the impulse of those decision-makers there can make fundamental mistakes. “Russian anxiety can be fueled by periodically moving bomber planes to bases in Europe and Asia, as well as by deploying additional tactical nuclear weapons on these continents” (p. xvii).

Being aware of the fact that this constitutes a violation of the NATO-Russia agreements of 1997, the center’s analysts propose as one of the options a radical increase in the US military presence in Poland and the Baltic States, also mentioning that in the south a favorable place to create additional baz is Romania. “Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were very enthusiastic about accepting more NATO units (especially US forces)” (p. 227) – the authors of the study state. This comment actually says it all; there is no need to remind here about the decisions that have led to the presence of a foreign military power on Polish territory in recent years.

An additional concern of RAND is, of course, the issue of spending of individual “allied states” on defense, or more precisely – on the purchases of American defense industry production. One of the recommended goals of the strategy towards Russia would be to achieve a supremacy under Washington’s leadership in the Baltic Sea, allowing the Russian navy to be blocked in this basin. This goal, as we know, is currently impossible to achieve, if only because of the practical absence of a Polish Navy.

In addition, RAND proposes to deploy nuclear warheads on Polish territory, which would resemble the situation with the deployment of Pershing-2 rockets in the mid-eighties in Western Europe, leading to an arms race and further provoking a Russian reaction. This clearly shows a convergence with the views expressed by Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in an interview from the beginning of this year with the German weekly Der Spiegel. This means that such an option has probably already been discussed by its neoconservative supporters with the Warsaw vassals. According to the strategy promoted by RAND Corporation, Poland, the Baltic States and Romania are to become the most militarized area in Europe. Its existence would be part of the policy of a conscious escalation of tensions with the Russian Federation, leading – as expected by the authors of the concept – to the next arms race, which would bring certain losses to Moscow. It is not difficult to notice that the Polish policy of recent years clearly fits into such a scenario.

Who are the authors of this extensive document (354 pages)? They are not anonymous experts, but characters who have influenced the shaping of American policy over many years, and were part of the local political, diplomatic and expert elites. James Dobbins was the European Union’s ambassador and assistant secretary of state for European affairs, Col. Raphael S. Cohen is a military intelligence officer, Paul DeLuca – a former navy officer, Forrest E. Morgan – an Air Force intelligence officer, Howard J. Shatz – a former adviser World Bank, and several others are scientists from various American academic centers. Therefore, they are undoubtedly people in a certain degree in relationships and/or serving the structures of what political scientists call the deep state.

This is not insignificant, because the recommendations of RAND Corporation are at least the voice of a part of the American establishment. Of course, not everyone has to identify with that voice. Reducing the decision-making process overseas to a single policy center would be wrong. However, we have here an example of an environment focused on confrontation, and assuming the implementation of its policy through satellite governments, including the Polish government.

dr Mateusz Piskorski
Myśl Polska, nr 45-46 (3-10.11.2019)

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