In the last post, which you can find here, we talked about Poland’s political division and how it resonates with the wider world’s dilemmas. Poland’s fit in the European Union has gone from poster child of post-Eastern Bloc democracy in the early 2000s to anathematic illiberalism. There is, of course, a strategic reason for this decision. Without being present in the actual halls of power, it’s practically impossible to know what’s really going on in International Relations. Perhaps nobody knows: not even those making the decisions.
The Outpost’s wild speculation here is that Poland’s long term geopolitical bet was aimed at replacing Germany’s role as the America’s main hard power foothold in Europe. An outrageously ambitious objective, sure, but you gotta shoot for the moon to reach the stars. This was to be materialized in several ways. First, by becoming an obstacle to the EU’s political integration attempts. Second, via infrastructure projects that altered the architecture of current flows of people and goods in the continent. And third, through bilateral military cooperation, by-passing already existing NATO structures.
The EU’s political integration is complicated to achieve, due to the member states’ diversity of interests and capacities. The priorities of countries such as Ireland, Belgium, Finland and Greece simply cannot be the same. Homogenization attempts have been tried to turn different populations into shallow versions of the same decaffeinated, liberal “citizen of the world”. Things like the Erasmus university exchange program have been successful in producing these types in the younger generations, all of them unified in their consumerist and cultural habits, with minor regional variations for folkloric flavor. Hard realities are difficult to overcome, though, and things like the immigration crisis, with its linked economic and security issues, have put the EU’s seams under too much stress.
The second element of Polish geopolitical strategy was to switch from Russian gas, via the ducts coming from the East, to US-delivered Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). This requires the construction of sophisticated facilities in the Baltic coast to return the gas to its natural state. Poland hoped to get ahead of competitors by becoming the European reference in gas imports, and hopefully to sell its non-used supplies to other Russian-dependent Central European states through a network of newly built ducts directed southward. A somewhat unrealistic objective, considering that LNG is 50% more expensive than its alternative. The Nord Stream 2 project, bringing Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic’s waters, is of course the main obstacle to this strategy, justifying both Poland’s and America’s opposition to it, complete with extensive lawfare operations to stall it.
Other infrastructure mega-projects with a potential game-changing effect have been attempted by Poland. One of the most notable is the Solidarity Transport Hub Poland: a huge airport which could eventually see up to 100 million passengers a year, complete with a business city around it and massive railroad connections. The airport is close to the geographic center of Europe, and would be an excellent node in the LA-Tel Aviv, Vienna-Tokyo, Shanghai-Paris and NY-Tehran air routes. This puts it in direct competition with the airports of Frankfurt (about 70 million annual passengers) and Berlin (30 million).
Another initiative with a similar aim of re-balancing logistics in Europe is Via Carpathia: a land route connecting the port of Klaipédas, in Lithuania, with Thessaloniki, in Greece. This would help to considerably develop Eastern Europe, much less interconnected than the West. It also has the potential to connect with the Chinese New Silk Road, which has already been discussed in this blog. Understandably, PO Germanophiles were less than enthusiastic about this idea, which has been on the table since 2013. Only after the rise to power of PiS did the project really take flight. Interestingly, improving communications in the Eastern Flank does not only help the development of the region, but it also exerts a gravitational pull away from European centers of power such as Berlin or Paris.
The third axis of Polish strategy was to engage in bilateral agreements with the US, so as to ensure it is the Americans most important military ally in Europe. The star project of this policy was the much discussed Fort Trump: a military complex that would serve as a deterrent, supposedly against Russian forces stationed in Kaliningrad or in Russia’s Western district, across the Belarusian territory. The Poles expected to host a whole US Army division. Although this is probably too much, an agreement was signed in August 20 by Mike Pompeo approving the redemployment of 5,500 soldiers to Poland, with a potential to make it 20,000 in the future. This was an explicit response to Germany failing to comply with NATO defense spending requirements: 6,400 troops based in Germany have been sent back to the US as part of the same agreement.
At the moment, the US leads the enhanced Forward Presence battle group in Eastern Poland for Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO effort conceived as a reaction against Russia’s involvement in the War on the Donbass. Since that conflict is not over, the mission’s justification remains, ensuring American presence in Polish soil. But things change in the blink of an eye: in two years time, with a new administration, the game of alliances can completely shift. Once LNG platforms in Poland and elsewhere start going operational, the US will increase its number of reasons to remain involved in Europe. Increased efficiency in communications and transportation might also change the flow of trade, creating new land-locked markets towards the East, with new shared interests in the neighborhood. One thing is certain: the post-Great Reset American Empire will look very different from 2001, and all its tributaries will feel the change one way or another.
This article is part of a series. You can find the next and final installment here.