Consistent pursuit of a goal – Poland’s foreign policy in 2015-2020

Jun 20, 2020

In the Polish constitutional system, the president is the head of the armed forces and cooperates with the government in conducting foreign policy, especially in its security dimension. Therefore, the assessment of the quality of Andrzej Duda’s presidency during his first term of office should also include a summary of his achievements in that field. It is clearly positive.

Two pillars – Central Europe and the USA

President Andrzej Duda has based his foreign policy on two pillars: transatlantic (close links with the USA) and regional (B9 and the Three Seas). This is due to the fact that the United States is the only real guarantor of Europe’s military security, and the countries of the eastern flank of NATO and the EU share the Polish view on the nature of the Russian threat and the role of the US in counteracting it; they also have similar interests in relations with the rich core of the European Union, but, without exception, smaller potential than Poland. Therefore, Poland can undertake tasks that others, due to lack of potential, cannot undertake and face challenges in the interest of the entire region, thus becoming a centre of its consolidation. Obtaining US support for this action is crucial to its success.

Iron consistency is the path to success – from B ‘9’ to forward presence

President Duda paid his first foreign visit to Estonia and in 2015, in cooperation with Romania, led to the establishment of the Bucharest “9” (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary), which demanded the military strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. Thanks to the efforts of Polish diplomacy, this postulate became a NATO programme adopted at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in 2016 and until spring 2017, it was implemented in the form of enhanced forward presence – battalion battle groups in the Baltic States, a brigade combat group in Poland, and multinational NATO brigade in Romania operating on the tailored forward presence basis. All NATO eastern flank countries with a land border with Russia and Romania, which is located near Crimea – which has been illegally annexed by Russia, have received military support from leading NATO allies. In June and September 2019, the presidents of Poland and the US signed declarations on the further strengthening of the American military presence in Poland and this process is ongoing. Everyone who attacks our country will have to enter into combat with US troops that are already here, and not guess whether they will come. By attacking Poland, the aggressor would have to include in their plans the opening of fire on the forces of a world’s superpower, and therefore a war with it. The question Hitler asked himself in 1939 (Will the Allies come to fight for Poland?) is unfounded today. Allies are already in Poland. The answer “they will not come”, which invites an invasion, is impossible. This forward presence mechanism kept West Berlin out of Soviet control during the Cold War, although, in a purely military sense, the Allied garrison in this city could be easily crushed. But the fact that opening fire on American, British and French soldiers would mean an outbreak of war meant that the Soviets never took such action. Today, thanks to the consistent policy of Andrzej Duda and Poland, the same mechanism has been installed on the entire eastern flank of NATO.

The Three Seas Initiative – gas, roads and digitisation “to keep Americans in, Russians out and single market real”

In 2015, the presidents of Poland and Croatia launched a joint regional initiative known as the Three Seas Initiative (the Baltic, the Adriatic, the Black Sea). It is a project to develop the north-south road and transport infrastructure, construct the transit network for energy raw materials, and develop digitisation connecting 12 Central European countries from the EU’s eastern flank (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary). In previous centuries, these countries were parts of the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires, and then the Soviet Union, and the majority of their communication routes (roads, railways, waterways) inherited from those epochs were adapted to the needs of these empires – their economic and political centres, and the directions of military expansion. With a population of about 110 million, the Three Seas region, with dynamically developing economies, is a great market for rich EU countries, but not for itself, because the communication routes are developed in the east-west direction, and the transport of goods and people on the north-south axis; due to the lack of proper infrastructure, it hinders trade, services and tourism. The strategic partner of the Three Seas is the United States (President Trump participated in the summit of this initiative in Warsaw in July 2017), and from 2018 the observer is Germany. Ukraine also participates in some projects (via the Carpathia –the Thessaloniki-Klaipeda motorway; Ukraine also participates in the Świnoujście-Ukraine gas pipeline). In initiating the Three Seas, President Duda has based Polish energy security on attracting the American energy industry to the Central European gas market, from which LNG imported from the USA displaces Russian gas. In this way, Poland is getting rid of dependence on Moscow in the supply of this raw material, reinforced by the decisions of post-communist governments (Leszek Miller and Waldemar Pawlak), and at the same time creates the need to strengthen the military cover of American business investments in our region. This system has the potential to cover also the Ukraine, and perhaps even Belarus, and binds Poland with hard interests not only in the USA, but also in the entire region. The development of the road network from the Balkans to Scandinavia from via Carpathia, via Baltica and the Bursztynowa motorway from Gdańsk via the Morawska Gate further south to the Balkans, in turn, will give us a truly, not a paper-, integrated European single market in our part of the EU.

Large infrastructure investments

Infrastructure investments are an important topic of Andrzej Duda’s election campaign. The Central Communication Port (CPK) – a large airport in the centre of the country between Warsaw and Łódź, with a network of automotive and rail roads connecting them with the most important Polish cities, will not only give an impulse for economic development, but is also of key importance for military mobility, which depends on pace of transfer of allied support forces in the event of a threat to Poland. The penetration of the Vistula Spit, whose northern part, together with the only exit to the Baltic Sea (Pilawska Strait), belongs to Russia, abolishes the dependence of maritime communication of the Polish ports of the Vistula Lagoon (Elbląg, Tolkmick and Frombork) and numerous smaller harbours from Russian consent regarding the closing and opening of sea ​​traffic of that strait. This investment opens not only a transport window for cargo, but also an interesting region full of medieval monuments for yacht tourism from Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Above all, it confirms Poland’s sovereignty over all its territorial waters, removes Moscow’s leverage for pressure on Warsaw and as such it is also an element of Polish foreign policy, resulting from the conviction that the solution to the problem of freedom of navigation on waterways controlled by Russia cannot be based on a legal settlement (because Russia is famous for violating signed contracts) but on a change in material reality, i.e. creating infrastructure which makes navigation in this area independent of the Kremlin’s will.

Author: Professor Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski

Author is a political scientist and an adviser to the Polish foreign minister.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the British Poles Portal.




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