La Pologne a engagé un plan de modernisation de ses forces armées qui prévoit une enveloppe de 40Mds€ sur la période 2013-2022 pour notamment renouveler sa flotte de sous-marins, acquérir hélicoptères et drones et se doter d’une défense aérienne. La part du PIB polonais alloué à la défense est l’une des plus importantes des États membres de l’UE (1,95% du PIB en 2013, soit environ 8Mds€). Le ministre polonais des Affaires étrangères Radoslaw Sikorski déclare en juin 2014: “Un contingent renforcé de militaires américains et européens doit être déployé en Pologne”. La Pologne, un acteur de la défense européenne: cette série issue du dossier stratégique de la lettre de l’IRSEM 3-2014 est publiée sur notre site avec l’aimable autorisation de Barbara Jankowski que nous remercions très chaleureusement. Une traduction en polonais a été réalisée par le Centre de Civilisation Française et d’Etudes Francophones.


Par le Professeur Ryszard Zięba, Institute of international Relations, University of Warsaw

1. The Russian threat
Democratic Poland invariably perceives Russia as a threat to its interests, including its national security. During the first years after regaining sovereignty (in 1989), Poland, as other countries in the region, feared the negative consequences of the disintegration of the USSR, possible conflicts and the dispersion of Soviet nuclear weapons. Poland anxiously observed Russia’s slow implementation of the 1990 CFE Treaty, and the increasing number of troops stationed in the Kaliningrad region, which was a natural result of the withdrawal of former USSR troops from the eastern Länder of unified Germany.

Since the beginning of democratic reforms in Poland, a strong concern exists that the Soviet Union would be opposed to those reforms and, hence, Poland moving out of the reach of the Soviet sphere of influence. This concern was transferred to Russia, resulting from the adoption of a historical thinking in the conduct of foreign and security policy. It was based on the assumption that the foreign policy goals of the Russian Federation and Poland were to remain un-friendly. Polish political elites and the media are indeed prisoners of negative historical experience and stereotype thinking. This thinking exposes threats, and is based on a realist understanding of international security. Meanwhile the post-Cold War, Europe has changed, but the Polish elites still think in terms of Cold War rivalry, and even the nineteenth century national uprisings of Poles fighting for independence.

It is worth noting that the political opposition in the People’s Republic of Poland used a liberal ideology to fight against the communist regime, and proclaimed demands of dissolutions of existing political and military blocs in Europe, i.e. the Warsaw Pact and NATO. After the ‘Solidarity’ political forces took power in 1989, Poland revised its political views, pursued a liberal conception of democratic and market reforms, and asked for the liquidation of the Warsaw Pact, the remains of the imperialist dependence on the USSR. They adopted a realist paradigm of issues to ensure Poland’s security, introducing it to the Western block and NATO. This confirms the hypothesis of Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, being conceived as a threat for Poland.

2. NATO membership as a counterweight to the Russian threat
Poland’s efforts to enter the North Atlantic Alliance, intensively led by Warsaw after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, were an indication for unspecified threats to its security, and the supposed rise of a ‘security vacuum’ or a specific ‘gray zone’ in Central Europe. Since Moscow clearly opposed NATO enlargement, it also reinforced fears in Poland against Russia, which was seen as a power seeking to rebuild its sphere of influence in Central Europe. Some-times, there were unfortunate Polish–Russian polemics, for example, in relation to President Lech Walesa’s request to install U.S. nuclear weapons in Poland. Suggestions in the Russian press to neutralize these weapons led the Polish me-dia and some politicians to perceive Russia as a threat to Poland’s national security. Russia, in turn, criticized the poten-tial installment of NATO infrastructure as well as the presence of U.S. troops on Polish territory. Poland’s leaders, therefore, started to fear that Russia’s opposition to Poland’s membership in NATO would make their country a ‘second class’ member. In contrast, those leaders ignored Russia’s concerns about the extension of NATO to the East.

After several years of NATO membership, Poland agreed in 2007 to build elements of the U.S. missile defense shield on its territory. Signed in 2008, this agreement – although not publicly announced – was also meant to protect the Polish territory against any attack by Russian nuclear missiles. After an initial U.S. withdrawal from plans to build such a shield in 2009, Poland eventually agreed to make its territory available for a new missile defense shield, having to defend NATO as a whole. This means that in the Polish way of thinking about security there still exists the fear of a military threat from Russia, and a receding U.S. military presence in Europe and Poland.

3. The concept of Russia’s repulsion from Europe
In general, when evaluating the concept of Polish foreign and security policy, it should be noted that Warsaw fears Russia’s return to imperialist policy and, therefore, assumes pushing Russia away from Europe. After the Cold War, NATO countries and the European Union did not make Russia any offer to attract the country to the West. Meanwhile, the new democracies of Central Europe were invited to Western structures, and even some post-Soviet republics were proposed partnership. Poland also actively undertook the repulsion of Russia from Europe, by pulling Ukraine away from Russia. It adopted Zbigniew Brzezinski’s thesis which states that strengthening the independence and pro-Western policy course of Ukraine will effectively prevent the return of Russia’s imperialist policy. This purpose is served by Poland’s involvement in supporting the so-called ‘colored revolutions’, especially ‘the Rose Revolution’ in Georgia (2003) and ‘the Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine (2004/2005), and to contribute to a close association of Ukraine with the EU (2013/2014). That support by the West and Poland for democracy in the non-Russian post-Soviet republics, together with a parallel criticism of the so-called Russian ‘sovereign democracy’, bears the features of competing for spheres of influence and puts Russia in the role of defender of its sphere of influence. The drama of ‘the Winter Revolution’ in Ukraine deepening from February 2014 confirms this observation. Poland – as the main European nation supporting Ukraine’s pro-Western course – contributes to relegate Russia to the position of its rival and enemy who resorts to a policy of Ukrainian division. Annexation of Crimea by Russia and Moscow’s support for separatism of eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine together with strong and uncritical support of the West for nationalist government in Kiev are very dangerous. All this creates serious negative consequences for international security.

4. No cooperation with Russia in security matters
Well-known Polish politicians, along with politicians from other countries of Central Europe, have ex-pressed their concerns about the new twist in the concept of President Barack Obama’s U.S. policy to Russia, announced to be a ‘reset’ in 2009. Poland, being a member of NATO and an ally of the United States, having hard security guarantees set out in article 5 of the Washington Treaty and participating in the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy, is not interested in cooperating on security matters with Russia. Therefore, the decisions of NATO Lisbon Summit in November 2010, declaring a partnership of the Alliance with Russia were adopted by Warsaw as a big challenge. Poland especially feared cooperation with Russia on building NATO’s anti-missile shield. Subsequent revisions of Washington’s plans to build such a shield, and the announcement of the reduction of U.S. military presence in Europe were received by Warsaw with concern. No conclusion has been drawn that we should seek rapprochement with Russia.

5. The need for new security arrangements in Europe
Poland lacks a strategic vision for the future of international security. It does not draw sufficient conclusions from the analysis of the changing international order, especially the evolution of the global balance of power, which increases the role of new emerging powers such as China and India. There is no recognition of the evolution of Russia’s international role, including possible scenarios of a strategic partnership between Russia and the West. Poland, like the United States and its European allies, does not allow for the possibility of cooperation with Russia on security issues. The example of the Ukraine in 2014 proves even the transition to a confrontation with Russia.

Meanwhile, the option of establishing a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community, including the OSCE member states, was discussed since the OSCE summit in Astana (in December 2010). Poland co-organized expert debates with Germany, France and Russia on this issue within the framework of the Initiative for the Development of a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community (IDEAS). The document ‘Towards a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community: From Vision to Reality’ has been elaborated by experts and was submitted in October 2012 to all states belonging to the OSCE. It contains proposals for joint actions designed to lead to the creation of a security community in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Today, the permanent security of the state in the international arena can be built not only upon ‘hard guarantees’. We also need to complement it with ‘soft’ security, and to see the growing interdependence of the security of those countries which were previously difficult to trust. The world is rapidly changing, and there are indications that countries throughout the OSCE area are facing the same or similar challenges, and this can mean that their future fate is also convergent.

Poland, however, like most of its allies, still does not appreciate the importance of the OSCE, which is the largest regional security organization, in possession of original instruments, and cannot go beyond the narrow group and in fact the militarized conception of security and actually to take a holistic and broad understanding of it. This of course implies the need for a serious rethinking of our concept of security and foreign policy. Sovereign Poland has not quite been able to ‘sovereignly’ revise its inadequate perception of eastern neighbors over the past 20 years, especially with regard to its obsessive view of Russia as our ‘existential enemy’. Without this, we will find it increasingly difficult to affect the change of Russia’s approach to us.

According to Polish circles of experts who understand the challenges of a changing world, Poland is slowly making its way to a realistic strategic view, implying the need to search for a new institutional arrangement in Europe. It allows for cooperation with Russia in security matters in the formula of a triangle or a quadrangle, including the USA, NATO, the European Union and Russia. At least the EU should seek to establish a dialogue with Russia to create a partner for the United States and other international actors. In addition, Poland and the West should aban-don their missionary posture, imposing western visions of human rights on Russia. Even if Moscow not exactly meets Western rules, and most recently during the Ukrainian crisis has infringed them, it is of high importance to try to build a solid partnership with Russia.

The realities of the Euro-Atlantic area should definitely lead to preference-based solutions and broad international dialogues, including Russia and the OSCE, the broadest institution gathering 57 countries from Vancouver to Vladivostok at one table. Paraphrasing the idea of the American political scientist Charles A. Kupchan, this should teach us how to turn enemies into friends and build lasting peace. The OSCE – as indicated by the experts involved in the IDEAS project – has a chance to create a wide Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community.

Prof. Ryszard Zięba – Jean Monnet Chair at the Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw. He was a member of the Commission of National Security Strategic Review established by the President of the Republic of Po-land, and of the Steering Committee of the Standing Group on International Relations at the European Consortium for Political Research; a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb, the George Washington University in Washington, and at the Western European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris. Author of numerous books and articles, about Polish foreign policy, international security, European studies and international relations theory. Lastly, published the book Poland’s Foreign Policy in Euro-Atlantic Area (in Polish).

Notes de bas de page :
1. R. Zięba, ‘Współczesne stosunki polsko-rosyjskie: uwarunkowania, problemy, implikacje’, Przegląd Politologiczny, 2011, no 3, pp. 53–55.
2. Towards a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community: From Vision to Reality, CORE Institute for Peace Re-search and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, MGIMO Univer-sity, PISM, Hamburg–Paris–Moscow−Warsaw 2012.
3. R. Zięba, ‘Bezpieczeństwo w polityce zagranicznej RP rządu koalicji Platformy Obywatelskiej i Polskiego Stronnictwa Ludowego’, Stosunki Międzynarodowe–International Relations, 2013, t. 47, no 1–2, pp. 9–33.
4. Ch. A. Kupchan, How Enemies Become Friends: the Sources of Stable Peace, Princeton University Press, Princeton-Oxford 2010

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