In the whirlwind of diplomatic activity in Europe and the U.S. related to the upsurge in fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine, the coming and going of government and military officials in the Ukrainian capital can provide revealing insights. The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Military Committee was in Ukraine on April 6 and 7 and the foreign minister of Poland was there the following day.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau returned to Warsaw on April 9, summing up the purpose of his visit as to “reaffirm our policy that Ukraine is not alone in defending its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of its borders.” Poland is not a member of either of the two negotiating arrangements established in 2014 to resolve the armed conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine.
Nothing would then seem to justify Polish intervention in that conflict aside from its neighboring Ukraine and being a member of NATO and the European Union. And that it cosponsored with Sweden the 2009 the Eastern Partnership initiative to wean former Soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine away from joint post-Soviet groups like the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Collective Security Treaty Organization with Russia. All the former Soviet states in Europe and the South Caucasus not already in the EU – except Russia.
It was Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s unwillingness to sign an Association Agreement with the EU related to the Eastern Partnership that sealed the doom of his government and perhaps his nation. A U.S.-supported uprising overthrew Yanukovych only three months later and war in the east of the country ensued. The war that has of late intensified.
The Polish foreign minister felt entitled to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, at the moment the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was photographed in full combat gear with frontline troops on the Donbass border. The Polish minister characterized the meeting as “extraordinary and urgent” (the meeting was moved up ahead of its previously scheduled date) and “associated with a threat to peace at Ukraine’s borders.”
Rau dutifully castigated Russia in these terms:
“We agreed that the massing of troops along Ukraine’s eastern border and in the occupied territory of Crimea we are witnessing in recent days should be taken into account when shaping and conducting policy of non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea and violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Rau also met with Leonid Kravchuk, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group – which Kiev has recently suspended participation in because talks are held in Belarus, criticized as being too close to Russia – and Oleksii Reznikov, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine. Regarding his talks with the three Ukrainian officials, Rau made the remarkable comment that “we discussed the threats to peace in Europe posed by the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, now in its final construction stages, and by the escalating security situation in Ukraine’s east and south.” The east meant Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbass; the south is an allusion to Crimea. That the proposed Russian natural gas pipeline to the EU across the Baltic Sea is a threat to peace in all of Europe beggars belief. In his own words Rau expanded upon the claim in saying it “will create a state of clear and present danger to peace in Europe.” A general threat to European peace would seem to be an occasion for NATO to activate its Article 5 collective military assistance provision.
The Ukrainian foreign minister later tweeted it was “important to enhance the Ukraine-Poland strategic partnership,” as Russia was guilty of “elevat[ing] security threats for Ukraine, Europe & the Transatlantic community.” This time it’s not only all of Europe that’s supposedly threatened by a Russia pipeline but the entire Transatlantic community – for which read NATO – that is endangered by Russia’s “destabilizing moves” and “an intensification of Russian propaganda.”
As Poland is intervening in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict it is also intensifying a campaign against Russian ally Belarus in relation to the western part of the nation where ethnic Poles reside. The Polish government, claiming “Polish families in Belarus live in fear,” is mounting an international campaign to target Belarus for the arrest of ethnic Polish activists in a manner reminiscent of similar irredentist efforts directed against nations like Serbia and Macedonia in the past. The Polish parliament, the Sejm, recently passed a resolution appealing to the “international community” to intervene on behalf of ethnic Poles in Belarus. Two weeks ago Polish President Andrzej Duda appealed to the United Nations Security Council to discuss the same issue.
Since last year Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned of a NATO-directed military intervention in the west of his country, in the Grodno region, by Poland and Lithuania, both of which border it.
In the event of a Western-backed assault by Ukrainian armed forces on the Donbass, it is not unlikely that a simultaneous and coordinated attack on Belarus might be staged.
Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the manager of Stop NATO. This originally appeared at Anti-Bellum.