This article was originally published on Myśl Polska.
I am glad that after many years, Henryk Goryszewski, who was even on the editorial board of “Myśl Polska” wrote a column for our paper. The subject raised in his text “Belarus in Polish foreign policy” (MP, no. 23-34 / 2020) has been with us for many years.
Let me remind you that in 2010 we even published a book on the subject called “War with Lukashenko’s regime”, in which we opposed the senseless, confrontational Polish policy towards Belarus consisting in constant festering, support of the so-called democratic opposition and finally leading to the destruction of the Polish minority in this country.
Not much has changed since then. Interestingly, the timid attempt to correct this policy by Minister Witold Waszczykowski ended very soon, when it turned out that the seemingly insignificant Mrs. Agnieszka Romaszewska from the TV channel “Belsat” has a stronger position than the minister of the Polish government. So on this matter I fully agree with Henryk Goryszewski . Polish policy towards Belarus requires not only a correction but a radical change.
The problem arises when the author explains what this policy change has to serve. He writes: “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new political geography came into existence across our eastern border. Poland enjoyed a similar deal only in the time between the collapse of Kievan Rus and the emergence of Muscovy, until then a regional power, at the end of the 15th century. In the current political configuration, Belarus, not Ukraine, is critical to our state’s security. Therefore, maintaining Belarusian independence should be one of the most important and perhaps the most important priority of Polish eastern policy. After five hundred years, Poland is again separated from Russia by a barrier of independent states. It is true that we are still bordering the Kaliningrad enclave, but its current conditions cannot be used for a strategic strike. It could play a supporting role only in the event of a wide-ranging conflict involving Russian imperial forces against the US military presence in Europe. ”
In my opinion, this analysis is no different from the ones the author seems to criticize. So, we are supposed to build something like a “sanitary cordon” between us and Russia, a “barrier” separating us from it, and look for solutions to protect us against “Russian aggression”. It has been written in Poland for many years, consolidating in the public opinion the belief that an “aggressive Russia” is threatening our independence and territory, and that is why we should “free” countries such as Ukraine or Belarus from it. The only difference that the author presents is the belief that freeing Belarus from Russian control is more important than the independence of Ukraine.
What’s worse, the author discreetly omits in his narrative the most important fact – that Polish Eastern policy towards countries such as Belarus or Ukraine is not Polish policy, but the US / NATO policy. In general, the name does not appear in the text, as if we were playing this game in the Warsaw – Minsk – Moscow triangle, while the game is taking place on the Washington – Moscow axis, and Poland and the Baltic countries are only pawns on this chessboard. The militarization of the Kaliningrad enclave and, in a broader aspect, the militarization of Russian policy is nothing more than a response to NATO enlargement and the constant, systematic shifting of NATO’s military infrastructure to the East, with the already famous base in Redzikowo at the forefront. This is the cause of current tension, not Russia’s mythical imperial ambitions. Of course, Russia, naturally, wants to maintain its large influence in Ukraine and Belarus, but there are no “imperial attempts” against us.
That is why I do not agree with the author’s opinion: “The military threat to Poland will increase immeasurably in the event of political subordination of Belarus by Moscow. We will find ourselves then in a situation similar to that existing before 1990”. Our goal should be to eliminate threats of a military nature in another way – by de-escalating the tension between NATO and Russia and by demilitarizing Eastern Europe. Then the role of the Kaliningrad enclave will change and it will become an area of economic cooperation, not a fortress besieged by NATO countries.
In 2010, in the text “Only Borys is left” I wrote: “Belarus is the only country beyond our eastern border which does not try to blur the traces of Polish culture and heritage. It rebuilds with a great investment of funds the Radziwiłłów Castle in Nieśniew (copies of all Radziwiłł portraits have already been contracted from the National Museum in Warsaw), the Adam Mickiewicz Museum in Nowogródek is beautifully maintained, the manor house of Tadeusz Kościuszko was reconstructed. The Belarusian authorities are seeking very good relations with the Catholic Church, the pilgrimage of Benedict XVI in Belarus is just around the corner. Meanwhile, in Warsaw, this is not noticed at all, the implementation of the political plan is straight from the period of George Bush’s rule, which the American administration, through the commandeering voice of Condoleeza Rice, ordered us to “fight for democracy” in Belarus. Then, in order to meet this order, it was decided that the political neutrality of the Union of Poles in Belarus was unacceptable, because the Union should support the spindly Belarusian “democratic opposition”. To implement this plan, it was necessary to remove the Union of Poles authorities – this task was carried out by the group Borys. And from now on this grops deals with almost nothing but festering, dividing, intimidating Poles who do not like this “policy”.
The years are passing by, but the mechanisms of “Polish” policy towards Belarus are unchanged – they are inscribed in the strategy of the US policy towards Russia and there is nothing to hide. The question is rather this: do we even have a chance to pursue Polish sovereign policy in the East and what exactly is it going to lead to? Certainly, it is not in the Polish interest to carry out orders “externally”. The author, however, proposes nothing but a relaxed version of policy towards Ukraine – which, as we can see, ended in total failure. Roman Dmowski already wrote in 1930 that a Ukraine separated from Russia would make a career, but would Ukrainians profit from it? The same is true for Belarus, which one should rather wish for this nation.
I agree with Henryk Goryszewski when he writes about what the Polish-Belarusian détente should look like and that the current authorities in Minsk should be the main partner in this policy and not the rickety opposition. To this catalog of legitimate demands I would add one more – Minsk does not even have to suspect that our goal may be to weaken Belarus relations with Russia. As a civilization, historically and mentally, Belarus will always be more gravitated towards Russia than towards Poland, although this may change over time. On the other hand, Belarus, instead of a field of confrontation and rivalry, may become a field of cooperation, also Polish-Russian, a bridge connecting the West with the East. China, for example, is pursuing such a policy towards this country, and is also interested in maintaining Belarusian sovereignty, but they do so without confronting Russia. I would also recommend such a strategy to our authorities.
Myśl Polska, no. 23-24