Polemics & Exchanges: May 2023

Poland Has Not Perished

I was disappointed to see Michal Krupa offer (In “Poland Needs a Peace Party,” April 2023 Chronicles) the predictably pro-Putin talking points that have become all too common in certain precincts of the dissident right. I would be inclined to ignore Mr. Krupa’s piece, but for one fact. Like me, Mr. Krupa is of Polish descent, and has far stronger and far more recent connections to Poland than I do. His nationality will likely draw considerable attention to his piece, since, as he notes, the Polish government has been outspoken in its support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

That stance has been broadly in line with Polish opinion. A June 2022 Pew Research Center Poll found that Polish views of Russia and Putin were extremely negative and hardened considerably following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. The poll showed that 94 percent saw Russia as a major threat, 94 percent had no trust in Putin, and only 1 percent wanted Poland to cultivate closer ties with Russia as opposed to closer ties to the United States.

These views are not expressions of irrational, atavistic “Russophobia.” Even Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has argued strenuously for a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine, states forthrightly that Hungary wants a large, independent Ukraine standing between Russia and Hungary. Poles need not be “arsonists” or servile followers of the pernicious “Anglo-Saxons,” as two experts cited by Mr. Krupa claim, to want what the Hungarians want: a buffer between them and an openly revanchist Russia.

Putin’s invasion was preceded by a speech making clear his contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty, his belief that all former Soviet Republics had no more right to independence than Ukraine does, and his general view that the collapse of the USSR was a matter to lament and, if possible, reverse.

What is more, before the invasion Putin had spent years making the cornerstone of his regime’s legitimacy the myth of “The Great Patriotic War,” which sees Stalin as a great national leader during World War II. This view brushes off the Soviet invasions of Poland and the Baltic States in 1939 and 1940 (resulting in mass deportations of Poles and Balts) as purely defensive or unimportant, and sees the Soviet domination of Poland that began in 1944 as a genuine liberation.

The precise analogue to Mr. Krupa’s essay would be a modern-day Frenchman chiding his countrymen for worrying about the possibility of Germany invading via Belgium, if Germany were led by an authoritarian nationalist who regularly staged parades featuring soldiers marching in Nazi uniforms, singing Nazi songs, and marching under posters of Adolf Hitler.

Thanks to Putin’s recklessness and belligerence, not even the Finns want Finlandization any more. Unless Russia gives up its imperial pretensions, the choice it faces is being ringed by European neighbors sheltering under America’s nuclear umbrella, or those neighbors creating a nuclear umbrella of their own.

I kept silent when Chronicles published Mr. Krupa’s earlier piece arguing that the real Polish hero of the 1980s was not John Paul II or Lech Wałęsa, but Communist stooge Wojciech Jaruzelski (“Was Poland’s Notorious Communist Dictator Actually a Conservative?,” October 2020 Chronicles). I did so in part because his opinion is too eccentric to influence anyone, and in part because my own view of Poland in the 1980s had been expressed many times in Chronicles, including sometimes by me.

In contrast, this piece is likely to find a congenial audience and its view of the Russo-Ukrainian War has become common in the paleoconservative world. I wanted to make clear that some of us still place the blame for this war squarely on the man who started it, Vladimir Putin, and hate this war not only because it has cost many innocent people their lives, their livelihoods, and their homes, but also harmed causes in which most of us have believed for decades: Christian unity, nationalism, and America’s disengagement from Europe. All these objectives have been harmed by a war that has further fractured the Christian East, caused the public to conflate nationalism with imperialism, and made Europeans cling even more tightly to NATO.

A personal note: I recently discovered that a cousin of mine was tortured and killed by the Communists after continuing the fight until 1949. His remains were identified by a special unit created by the Polish government that seeks to identify the remains of Poles tortured to death by either the Nazis or the Soviets. His remains were identified in 2016 along with 21 others. The families of these slain heroes were honored by the president of Poland, and the men were reburied with full military honors.

A Polish friend, after watching a 30- minute video about my cousin, wrote this:

I just finished watching this film. Horrific. So you are related to a hero. I wonder whether there exists any other nation that has to employ hundreds of people and create a special Institute to search for the remains of heroes tortured to death by [its] neighbors.

The Poles have good reason to fear Russian rule. They should not be attacked in Chronicles for doing so.

—Tom Piatak
Berea, Ohio

Mr. Krupa replies:

Mr. Piatak, readers may not be aware that you and I have known each other via social media for some time now and have exchanged our thoughts on this topic more than once. I must admit I was surprised by your forceful response to my piece. For the sake of brevity, I will address the most relevant of the claims you make in your attempted rebuttal to my article.

You write in your opening: “I was disappointed to see Michal Krupa offer the predictably pro-Putin talking points that have become all too common in certain precincts of the dissident right.” Am I to understand that anyone not repeating and internalizing the narrative of the mainstream media, George Soros, or [New Yorker reporter] Masha Gessen on the war in Ukraine is “pro-Putin”?

In my humble opinion, this is an unwarranted accusation that brings back memories of those heady days of Russiagate, when those who did not agree with the line about Russian interference in the 2016 election were “playing into the hands of Putin” or “parroting Kremlin propaganda.”

To clearly see why this war was initiated (that was provoked by the U.S. and NATO), to honestly assess the military state of play in Ukraine (that Kiev is losing) and to warn against the risk of this war escalating (which remains a real possibility), are by no means a sign of being “pro-Putin”, but simply of rationality. If I am “pro-Putin,” then so are Tucker Carlson, Colonel Douglas Macgregor, John Mearsheimer, and Jack Matlock Jr., the former ambassador to the USSR under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush—to name a few of the saner commentators who have been critical of the West’s involvement in the war in Ukraine.

I am not for or against Putin, which is beside the point anyway because Putin is the leader of the world’s largest country and a nuclear superpower, and becoming morally invested in a “pro-” or “anti-Putin” stance simply does not make any difference.

I am a Polish citizen who cares first and foremost about the well-being and national security of his country. If that makes me “pro-Putin” in your book, well then, the neoconservatives at places like the American Enterprise Institute will welcome you with open arms.

But I will limit myself to addressing your concerns regarding my position on the war from a purely Polish perspective.

You write that you are concerned that my nationality and Polish connections will draw undue attention to my article. Just to clarify for the sake of the readers: I not only have connections to Poland, but I also live there and pay my taxes there. The points I made in my article are not only drawn from the simple fact that I am of Polish nationality but because I also frequently liaise with former members of the Polish special services, with current and former members of parliament, columnists, journalists, academicians, and analysts, who make a compelling case about the stupidity and futility of the Warsaw government’s actions vis-á-vis Ukraine.

Also, I experienced firsthand the disgusting tactics being employed by the ruling elites in Poland, such as the politically motivated firing of my friend Leszek Sykulski from his teaching position as a professor of political science. He was fired due to his publicly expressed anti-interventionist views, which the current regime, in its desperate bid to outdo everyone in its hatred for Moscow and subservience to Washington, cannot tolerate.

Add to this the omnipresent signs of Poland becoming a de facto, if not de jure, binational entity (some call it the “Ukrainization of Poland”) in its policy preferences and social tendencies. I shall, therefore, humbly submit that I am more than well-positioned to comment on the current situation not as an armchair expert, but as someone who is right in the middle of it all.

You write that Polish public opinion is overwhelmingly hostile to Russia. Mr. Piatak, I know you remember that sad time in American history, the year of Our Lord 2003, when in September it was reported that almost 70 percent of the American public believed Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11, and in a survey conducted a few weeks prior to George W. Bush’s State of the Union in 2002, 73 percent of Americans favored military action in Iraq to end Hussein’s rule; just 16 percent were opposed. More than half (56 percent) said the U.S. should act against Iraq “even if it meant U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties.”

It took almost 20 years for the American public to realize its mistake, and now retrospective opinion polls record that the public believes the decision to initiate war with Iraq was a mistake. The public now knows that the Iraq War was sold to the public based on lies and manipulations of the highest order, just as this current one in Ukraine is being sold to Poles from their television screens and the mainstream press. Many of the same faces in the United States as well as in Poland who promoted the disaster in Iraq are now gunning for “weakening Russia” via proxy war.

It is my hope that it does not take 20 years for my countrymen to realize that making an enemy out of Russia and acting as the “servants of the Ukrainian people and their requests” (in the words of the spokesperson of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is not in Poland’s true national interest, and only makes Warsaw more dependent and subservient to the dictates of the Western globalist elites.

You write that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has argued strenuously for a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine and wants a large, independent Ukraine standing between Russia and Hungary. Fine, but Mr. Piatak, please show me an example where the current government in Warsaw has also “argued strenuously for a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine”? You won’t find one.
In mid-April, Polish President Andrzej Duda during a meeting with his Italian counterpart, in reference to calls for a negotiated settlement and peace in Ukraine growing ever louder in Europe, stated:

Anyone who calls for an end to aid to Ukraine today, in view of the fact of ongoing Russian aggression, is in fact acting in the interest of Moscow, is in fact acting in the interest of Russia, is in fact aiming for Russia to defeat Ukraine.

Worth recalling is the fact that Duda at one point wanted to name an American base in Poland after Donald Trump, who is currently calling for exactly what Duda opposes: an immediate end to hostilities. What’s more, Trump recently said in a March campaign video something that is almost heretical in the current context:

Our foreign policy establishment keeps trying to pull the world into conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia based on the lie that Russia represents our greatest threat. But the greatest threat to Western civilization today is not Russia. It’s probably, more than anything else, ourselves and some of the horrible U.S.A.-hating people that represent us.

Duda could learn a thing or two from Trump about identifying the real, globalist, not Russian, enemies of Poland.

Warsaw’s position is a far cry from the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Orbán, who argues convincingly that pumping Ukraine with weapons only prolongs the conflict and leads to the slaughter of Ukrainians on the frontline, while in no way weakening Russia’s strategic position, in Ukraine or globally. The bottom line is this, Mr. Piatak: All sane people want an independent Ukraine, a neutral Ukraine, a Ukraine not in NATO, not guided by the sick ideology of [Ukrainian far-right nationalist] Stepan Bandera and his ilk and not enslaved by the fat cats at BlackRock or JP Morgan. Warsaw’s current foreign policy is the exact opposite of this line of thinking.

You write in closing, “The Poles have good reason to fear Russian rule. They should not be attacked in Chronicles for doing so.” The suggestion that contemporary Russia seeks to rule Poland, is, pardon my bluntness, sheer lunacy, straight out of [neoconservative and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] John Bolton’s wet dreams. We may as well fear Mongolian rule.

Contrary to your characterization of Viktor Orbán’s actions, he is doing for his country what I want for mine: putting the interests of his people first and decisively avoiding being a party to this Western proxy war against Russia.

Your friend,
—Michal Krupa
Wrocław, Poland

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