A shorter version of this article was published by Newsmax.
In Ghost Fleet, a science cyber-fiction thriller about our next war with China and Russia in the near future, NATO falls apart. After the United States is attacked, and Hawaii occupied by Red Chinese, the Europeans proclaim neutrality. That is, except for the Brits and the Poles, of course. The United Kingdom and Poland stand by America. They fight.
In a climactic showdown, a Polish submarine finally detects the Chinese “ghost fleet,” surfaces, and communicates its location to the U.S. Navy. Thus revealing their position, the Polish submariners are destroyed by the enemy, while beaming out their final farewell to the Americans: “Za waszą i naszą wolność” (For your freedom and ours).
Ultimately, we win the war, and Poland gets a nuke as a present for its faithfulness. We proliferated so that our staunchest ally on the Old Continent would be truly protected from its predatory neighbors.
Nowadays, Poland is both nuclear weapons and energy free. During the Cold War, the Soviets kept nukes there illegally and surreptitiously. They pulled them out a few miles outside of Poland to the Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic sea. Now they are aimed at the Poles (and other Western neighbors).
Under George W. Bush, there was talk about incorporating our Polish allies into the missile shield system. That would have entailed setting up some hardware on Polish soil. The Obama administration scrapped the idea and, as a sop, offered to extend protection through our naval defense projects. Unfortunately, there is not much U.S. Navy presence on the Baltic Sea, and other “shield” options sounded semi-impressive on paper only.
Donald Trump became more serious about Poland. He understood that strong Polish armed forces translated into more freedom for the U.S. to face China. The Poles would continue to secure NATO’s eastern flank, and we would pivot to the Pacific to thwart the Chinese communist threat. But Washington would maintain enough troops and hardware in Europe to continue to serve as a deterrent to Moscow’s adventurism and Berlin’s disloyalty.
The Biden White House has thus inherited a potentially combustible situation. So far, it has reversed Trump’s punitive moves against Germany, including the halting of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from there. It has balked at sending more GIs to Poland and setting up a serious U.S. military base there, an endeavor the natives called wishfully “Fort Trump.”
Otherwise, Joe Biden continues a prudent policy of shoring up our Polish ally. The U.S. has just offered to sell our Abrams tanks to Poland. They would replace ancient, Soviet-made T-72s and German-engineered Leopards, which are the mainstay of Polish armor.
The Poles have been also looking forward to the delivery of the top-of-the-line F-35s from America. Warsaw has decided to acquire the fighter plane despite some serious misgivings. First, some critics scold the F-35 as an engineering failure and a combat liability. Second, even if practice proves the critics wrong, the fighter plane is terribly expensive to maintain. It is technologically more advanced than anything that Poland fields. Therefore, the Poles will have to spend an additional, inordinate sum of money for the infrastructure and other accompanying gadgets. In other words, and that is a third problem, they would have to build much of their military system around a single defense project: the F-35, instead of fitting it into their existing armed forces set up.
Will the F-35 and the Abrams tank help? They sure will. But will that be enough? If Poland is left to its own devices, as it surely will be, since we do not have enough troops in Europe to save any of our eastern allies right away, the new weapons systems will not suffice.
A recent comprehensive war game has demonstrated that Poland consistently loses to Russia in case of a Russian invasion. The last exercise indicates that the Russian troops would be on the outskirts of Warsaw within less than a week.
The Poles are outgunned and outmatched. That is really bad news, not only for them. Why should the U.S. care? Poland is our staunchest ally in the EU; Poland and Estonia are the only nations that actually contribute the required funds to NATO. Everyone else has enjoyed a virtually free ride as far as defense expenditures, compliments of the U.S. taxpayer.
Poland is also a pivot of our defense system on the eastern flank. It is the largest and most populous NATO nation there. Others, including the Baltic states, rely on Warsaw.
What can the U.S. do? First, we must continue to proclaim our unwavering commitment to NATO, including Poland’s freedom. Second, we must proceed with arming Poland. Third, we should encourage our other allies, the Germans in particular, to support the Poles, politically, diplomatically, and, if needs be, militarily.
The White House, in particular, should lean on Germany to drop its opposition to Poland’s endeavor to develop clean nuclear energy. This should translate into energy independence from Moscow not only for Warsaw but for the rest of the EU. That means bolstering NATO solidarity, the security of Europe, and Poland’s defenses.
The vision is quite feasible especially in conjunction with the U.S.-sponsored energy hub on the Polish Baltic coast, as well as similar projects on the Adriatic and Black seas, thus completing the economic, political, and military coherence of the Intermarium.
If all else fails, there is the option of gifting a nuke to Poland. Sure, it’s a fat chance under the Biden administration, but life sometimes imitates art, and that includes science fiction.
Also, science fiction can tell us if Warsaw is capable of generating an elite that would be willing to use America’s nuclear gift in times of peril. Or will the Polish leaders just roll
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, D.C., 10 March 2021