As geopolitical stability in Europe is threatened by an increasingly belligerent Russia, Poland must look to strengthen her economic and regional security. While the current Polish government is already working towards this goal, it will need important strategic partners with converging interests to achieve this objective.
Two longstanding allies that come to mind are the UK and the USA. Indeed, Poland should opt for a two-track approach, taking advantage of its EU membership whilst at the same time seeking to form an Atlanticist initiative with the US and the UK.
The only countries which fought from the beginning to the end of WW2 are those of the British Commonwealth and Poland. The United Kingdom went to war in 1939 to in a shared endeavour to free it from tyranny, only for Poland to have to accommodate it since 1945 until the Cold War ended. That alone created a "special relationship" between England and Poland. No country understands the meaning of strategic moral intent and friendship more nor experienced the actual consequences of threats to its national sovereignty than Poland. As Prime Minister Churchill said, "The Polish people and nation will forever hold a warm place in British hearts. It was in defence of Poland's freedom and independence that Great Britain drew the sword against Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939, within forty-eight hours of the German invasion of Polish territory."
By anchoring herself in an Atlantic partnership, Poland can help protect herself against the political and economic volatility that exists (and is likely to worsen) within the EU. By engaging in parallel alliances, Poland could pave the way for other countries by creating a strategic and pragmatic approach that brings improved economic benefits and reduced risk to the nation.
Since joining the European Union, Poland's GDP has been growing by around 3.9% per year and, by the end of 2014, Poland's GDP was more than three times that of Ukraine. This is explained by the fact that Poland joined the EU in 2004 whilst Ukraine was unable to do so.
However, the economic benefits of this membership will start to fade as Poland, like Britain before her, becomes a net contributor to the EU economy. Indeed, as Daniel Hannan MEP so elegantly put it 'there is economic growth on every continent now – except Antarctica and Europe.' Poland should be ready to shift its attention to the much larger UK/US alliance that will have more to offer her.
Germany, arguably the most pro-EU country in Europe and the unspoken head of the EU, has proven itself untrustworthy to many Eastern Europeans following its approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which imports gas from Russia and bypasses Eastern Europe entirely. Not to mention Germany's shambolic handling of the migrant crisis which has split Europe between West and East.
If one compares the GDP of the EU Bloc without the UK, and the combined GDP of a US/UK Bloc, the latter is immensely larger than the former with $7.435 trillion more in total GDP. The US continues to be the world's most powerful economic player and the UK enjoys a special economic relationship with both the USA and The Commonwealth; not taking into account the new trading opportunities that a post Brexit Britain will be able to utilise.
It is often forgotten that the USA is the UK's largest national exporting and investment partner outside the EU and that there exists no more complex or dynamic military and security relationship that the world has ever seen than the one between the USA and the UK since 1945.
A Trans-Atlantic relationship would not be a one sided affair as both the US and the UK have expressed a clear interest in a strengthened relationship. As one of the five NATO countries to meet the organization's defence spending guidelines, Poland has shown its deep commitment to NATO and its military alliances with the US and the UK, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the current US administration. In a recent speech in Warsaw, the US president stated,
"Among the most committed members of the NATO Alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole, and free."
This was after President Trump praised the contributions of the 9.5 million strong Polish Diaspora in the US and later reemphasized this point in a conference with Angela Merkel noting that Germany does not pay its fair share while singling out Poland as a one of the few NATO countries that upholds its end of the deal.4
Poland should leverage its special relationship with the current US president to promote trade pacts with the US and ensure that Poland is well entrenched in their military strategy. In doing so, Poland would remind the US of the strategic importance of stationing American troops near NATO's borders.5
An estimated £15billion in bilateral trade exists between Poland and the UK and, given Poland's willingness to work with the UK through the Brexit negations; this is only likely to increase. Given our vote to leave the EU, Britain will be at the forefront of a new liberal free-trade renaissance and it will greatly benefit Poland to be a part of that.
In stark contrast to Germany, former Polish Prime Minster Beata Szydlo has said "Poland stands ready to help its old friend Britain reach the best possible Brexit deal". The British Prime-Minister praised this attitude commenting that if all European leaders approached Brexit "in the same constructive and positive manner, then we can secure the right outcome for the U.K. and for our European neighbours."7
Moreover, one should not forget the historical precedent for such a partnership between the US, the UK and Poland. After WW1, in 1920, Winston Churchill said, "Poland has saved herself by her exertions and will I trust save Europe by her example." Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, 250,000 Polish soldiers fought alongside British forces in the most decisive battles including the Battle of Britain where 145 battle-hardened Polish airmen helped stave off Luftwaffe air raids and were likely decisive in the eventual British victory. By the end of the war 14,000 Polish airmen were serving with the RAF. No. 303 Kosciuszko Squadron RAF made the highest number of enemy losses (126) of all the squadrons engaged in the Britain of Britain. Poland made a strategic contribution to the British by sharing with Great Britain just before war began—their six years' work in breaking the German Enigma code. This enabled Bletchley Park, at a very early stage in the war, to provide the "Ultra" decrypts. The most single most important source of intelligence available to the British war effort. "Ultra" played a crucial part in the war, and in ending it earlier.
As Polish consul in the US, Maciej Golubiewski mentioned in a radio interview8, Polish soldiers fought in the US Revolutionary war helping the US gain its independence, yet another point that was brought up by the US president during his visit to Warsaw when he stated
"Just steps from the White House, we've raised statues of men with names like [General] Pułaski and Kościuszko."
Additionally, our three countries' mutual security interests help make such an alliance very convenient. A closer military cooperation with the UK and the US will bolster Polish security as all three countries demonstrate their commitment to the collective defence pact in the NATO charter's Article 5. These strong global military powers that have consistently stood up to Russian aggression will dissuade Russia from considering any encroachment into sovereign Polish territory.
This triad also have an interest in preventing the formation of an EU army given the considerable threat that it would pose to European security. This initiative would undermine NATO as the cornerstone of European defence and redirect resources away from the transatlantic union. Countries concerned with European security would be better served by focusing their efforts on NATO's $920 billion budget alliance rather than an EU army whose defence budget is four times smaller ($227 billion).
It is NATO which has preserved European peace since its creation in 1949 with the USA and the UK as its founding architects. Its single purpose won the Cold War and enabled Poland's freedom.
With an EU membership that runs in parallel with an Atlantic partnership, Poland would follow a cautious approach that will ensure a more stable economy and increased regional security. Indeed, the US and the UK have an interest in preventing any economic instability among European free-market democracies since these democracies would be vulnerable to opportunistic Russian aggression. With a relationship based on shared values of democracy and individual freedom, the alliances that would constitute this Atlantic partnership would thrive.
Poland occupies a unique position in continental Europe. No other country understands Germany or Russia more than its 200 years' experience of both and its national sense of purpose is an acute and strategic one as its consequence. In December 2017 the United Kingdom signed a bi-lateral defence agreement with Poland, the United Kingdom's first such agreement in Europe since its commitment to go to war with Poland against Germany in 1939. At its signing in Warsaw Prime Minister Theresa May said, "We are building a strategic partnership from a base of shared history and deep ties of friendship that will continue to flourish long after our departure from the EU." The moment for Poland to secure an Atlantic Partnership with the USA and the UK has never been more opportune as this one as the UK departs the EU.
In conclusion, given the economic and political volatility that will arise as the EU wades through untested waters in its objective to centralise power in Brussels, Poland should remain guarded while constantly revaluating the benefits of an EU membership. Indeed, the time may come when Poland may have to decide whether it wishes to pursue a policy of improving defence, security and trade or whether to follow the EU into ever closer union.
Daniel Kawczynski MP
House of Commons