Radek and Berlin

by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz  |  December 5, 2011  |  KOSCIUSZKO CHAIR

A few days ago in Berlin, Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski openly expressed his support for Germany's leading role in European integration in exchange for leaving Poland's indigenous traditional identity alone. In other words, Warsaw has officially acquiesced in Berlin's dominant position, but the post-modernist social engineers of Brussels should stay away from the Polish culture. This can also be translated as a prod for the German Federal Republic to step in and save the economic and security structures of the European Union or else the Russian Federation will move into the vacuum. Warsaw's latest moves largely result from the sad consequences of America's absence in Europe. They also reflect the European power reality.

Germany's superior role in the EU is a fact. But its official recognition by the Civic Platform (PO) government for guaranteeing Poland's culture and state can be viewed a bit like a repeat of the 18th century compliant and ultimately suicidal submission by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the European Powers, Prussia and Russia in particular, on the assumption that the predatory neighbors would leave the nation's republican-monarchical constitution and its tradition of liberty intact because Poland's enduring presence was allegedly indispensable to preserve the European balance of power. By the end of the century the Commonwealth was, of course, partitioned and disappeared as a sovereign state for the next 120 years. This is how the opposition Law and Justice Party (PiS) views Minister Sikorski's Berlin declaration.

An alternative interpretation is that Sikorski (and his prime minister Donald Tusk) pursue a policy of neo-Finlandization as a new political option for Poland. Warsaw submits to Berlin in foreign and economic policy and, in return, it gets to retain its unique identity. Naturally, it is hard to expect that a Polish conservative enclave would be left intact to enjoy its homey wholesomeness in the era of rampant post-modernism diligently dictated by Brussels, along with promoting "alternative life styles" on the Vistula under the guise of "human rights." The postulate of cultural autonomy is not realistic unless Radek Sikorski means to negotiate new and unique EU membership rules for Poland alone where the post-modernist law issuing from Brussels would not apply to Warsaw. This would require a serious debate, but it is simply not in the cards in the current counter-cultural context.

Meanwhile, the opposition PiS has slammed the government for procedural and principal reasons. First, the Tusk cabinet failed to debate the issue in the parliament prior to the unveiling of the Sikorski initiative in Berlin. Second, according to the opposition, the PO team has officially ceded the nation's independence to the centralizing juggernaut of the EU under Germany's leadership. Never mind that the PiS did so itself when supporting Poland's accession to the EU in 2004 and its fuller integration afterwards.

The opposition has also conveniently overlooked, however, that the Civic Platform resoundingly won an election a couple of months ago. Thus, it enjoys a democratic mandate, and it can do as it pleases. The objection may be that the average PO voter had no idea that his support would translate into the end of Polish sovereignty. Perhaps so. In the United States, many people who voted for Barack Obama did not anticipate the radical state interventionism of the President. And, despite steadily declining approval ratings, he endeavors to change everything left and right, exacerbating the economic crisis and undermining the power of America. This course cannot be reversed until the next presidential elections, if Obama loses them, of course. The same mechanism applies to democratic Poland of Prime Minister Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski.

A full disclosure: I know Radek Sikorski personally, sometimes as a friend. Radek is the only Polish politician appreciated and recognized in the West, in particular among his fellow journalists (his safety job). No one from Poland is perceived as sympatico, as professional as he is in the English-speaking world. His words and actions matter internationally.

Radek has been a pragmatic since the failure of de-Communization in the early 1990s. Once, right before Poland's EU accession in 2004, we were on a panel together in Washington, DC. Both of us were on the Euroskeptic side, and we were surrounded by Euroenthusiastic speakers and audience. I cautioned that first one should ascertain what Poland could potentially gain and what it could lose before committing. Two models of integration applied: mergers and acquisitions. In the former case, equal partners collude for mutual benefit. In the latter case, the management of the weaker company gets a golden parachute, and the workers get the boot. Further, the rampant leftist counter-culture of Brussels was not compatible with the Polish identity. Thus, Poland should think before jumping in. Radek agreed but nonetheless advised the Poles to vote for the EU accession, while holding their noses.

Likewise, the Berlin declaration is undergirded by pragmatism. Foreign Minister Sikorski has simply recognized the obvious: in the absence of the American leadership, Germany has become the dominant power in Europe. What options do the Poles have as far as domestic attitudes? They can:

  1. Embrace Euroeuphorism (or Europhorism). That entails integrating with the EU to the point of melting and liquidating Poland and Polishness understood as a traditional historical continuum, including anything prescribed, Christianity in particular, but also other faiths. This should be accompanied by an a priori imaging and forging a "new European man" with a "new European identity." To this end, alternative lifestyles should be eulogized and various gender and ethnic minorities celebrated effusively and enforced rigidly via a politically correct regime of multiculturalism. Poland should be further humiliated with ongoing accusations of its complicity in the Holocaust as the alleged Polish norm during the Second World War. This is the dream of much of the mainstream media, the libertine Palikot movement, and the so-called New Left.
  2. Follow Euroenthusiasm. That means the dismantling of the nation state, while retaining the ethnographic material of its civic body. In Brussels, the self-anointed leftist elites will invoke the mandate of the deracinated natives.  As post-Communist leader Aleksander Kwaśniewski has put it, "one must consciously give up his sovereignty, while maintaining one's identity." It is presently one of two official faces of the EU.
  3. Shore up Euroscepticism. It sports three shades:

a. The first one is neo-Finlandization. It is the consent to the German supremacy over the EU. However, one retains fully one's state structures and their defense and diplomatic potential, which can participate actively in foreign policy surreptitiously, and which can be deployed openly only in case of a major crisis.  Inside, Poland remains autonomous, conservative, and Catholic. This is precisely the model articulated by Radek Sikorski as a representative of the PO government. This model already exists within the EU to a certain extent.

b. The second option is the paradigm of the Polish nation state participating in the "Europe of Fatherlands" of similar nation states affiliated with the EU. Accordingly, Poland also avoids the experiments of social engineering by Brussels and retains a great deal of sovereignty in foreign affairs, while coordinating its economic business with the EU, which prefers state interventionism. This is the option favored by the opposition PiS.

c. The third choice is the conservative-libertarian project obligating Poland to remain in the EU only if Brussels abandons its centralizing impetus; eschews counter-cultural social engineering; and dissolves all superfluous bureaucratic institutions which hamper free trade, free intellectual exchange, and freedom of movement for citizens of the European nation states. Further, the EU should be a forum to elaborate a common defense policy within the Euro-transatlantic alliance under the American leadership.

4. Last but not least, there is also Europhobia. The Europhobes advocate Poland's leaving of all the EU structures; introducing an autarchy; and launching active self-defense against all nefarious outside influences through cultural, social, military, economic, and political means of the Polish nation. This option is a favorite with fringe identitarian groups, extreme nationalists in particular.

At the moment, only options 2 and 3A are feasible as far as Polish domestic attitudes toward the EU.  What about the external options? Well, Warsaw can either go it alone or surrender to Moscow or to Berlin (which dominates Brussels). Russia is incapable of maintaining fair relations with junior partners. It aims to overwhelm, and dictate to, a weaker party. Thus, by submitting to the Russian Federation, the Polish Commonwealth will lose its independence. However, it will be able to retain its identity. That is not for the lack of trying (as Muscovy has done so for over 200 years) but because a less advanced culture can only threaten a more developed one through state terror and physical annihilation. Short of that, a more advanced culture (in terms of its commitment to freedom) perseveres.  But under the Kermlin diktat, one should expect that not only "alternative life styles" would be phased out, but also human rights in general. A Minsk on the Vistula beacons.

With Washington missing from the game, there is only one option left, then: to play Berlin and Brussels. So long as liberal democratic rules apply in the UE, perhaps Poland will be able to weather the storm. Officially, it can feign supporting option 3A (Euroskeptic neo-Finlandizing), even to the extent of camouflaging it as the politically correct option 2 (Euroenthusiastic). At the same time, Warsaw should endeavor to achieve option 3C (Eurosceptic conservative-libertarian), or, less preferably, 3B (Eurosceptic "Europe of Fatherlands"). Meanwhile, Poland should help itself by developing its nuclear energy potential and procuring its own nuclear weapons in lieu of American protection. It needs to learn how to play the game of strategy.

And don't worry about Radek. He'll do well under any circumstances. As he likes to say about himself: "I am an old guerrilla" (Jestem stary partyzant), referring to his anti-Communist adventure in Afghanistan. I miss that guy.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 30 November 2011
www.iwp.edu