Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy: The problem of Russian threat remains almost unnoticed in Poland

“We can pull Belarus to a higher level of discussion,” said the Belsat TV director and the chair of the new Eastern Policy Society, created in Warsaw by analysts, scientists and journalists. The organization’s goal is to support Polish Eastern policy. Why do our neighbors need such an organization? What can it give to Belarusian-Polish relations? What is the “Jerzy Giedroyc Doctrine” ? All this in the interview with Alina Koushyk.

– What is the Polish Eastern policy? In Poland, this term is fairly clear, but how can it be explained to people who live in Belarus?

– This is a Polish policy towards all neighboring countries located to the east of Poland. This is mainly a policy towards the countries of the former Soviet Union — Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. There is a discussion whether it is possible to add here the policy towards Lithuania, as we look at the policy towards the EU countries separately. But from the historical, geographical, geopolitical point of view, there is also a connection. To sum up, it is a Polish policy towards countries lying to the east of Poland. Of course, we do not take China into account — it’s very far from us.

– It would seem that this is the task of diplomats, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why create such a society, especially since you say that it will be a non-political structure?

– A number of analysts, journalists, who are engaged in this subject, among them myself, have come to the conclusion that Polish society, as well as the Polish authorities, should pay more attention to this political aspect. This kind of institution, and similar public organizations, exist in different states. They are partly used for lobbying, but they also pay attention to this problem. In part, these are analytical, expert institutions, the so-called “think tanks”, the factories of thoughts. There is nothing new here.

However, the novelty is that this is entirely an initiative from below. We came to the conclusion that in Poland little attention is paid to Eastern policy, and in general to what is happening to the east of Poland.

And this is very important: Poland has 1,200 kilometers of the eastern border, so we cannot turn away from this at least for geopolitical reasons. Whether people like it or not, I always repeat that Poland is not moving to Portugal.

– There are two approaches to eastern policy: the Giedroyc Doctrine, which you support in your Society, as well as the doctrine of Dmowski. Why did you choose the Giedroyc Doctrine? Recall that Jerzy Giedroyc was born in Minsk in 1906, so he probably understood us, Belarusians, like no other.

– First and foremost, the so-called Jerzy Giedroyc Doctrine is a set of beliefs that he and the figure of the Polish emigration Juliusz Mieroszewski created in the 1950s. There was the Soviet Union, with Belarus and Ukraine being parts of it. True, these two republics had their representation in the UN, but it was a pure illusion. However, even then he drew attention to the fact that from the point of view of Polish politics, it would be important to stake on the independence of neighboring states.

No one then imagined that there would be an independent Belarus or Ukraine. Everyone can confirm, from those who used to live in Poland or the Soviet Union, that we all believed that the Soviet Union would exist for many years to come.

However, it turned out that Giedroyc was right. In the 1950s, he said that Poland should prepare its own policy aimed at cooperation and coexistence with neighboring countries, he called them “the countries of Ukraine – Lithuania – Belarus (ULB)”. These countries formed the Commonwealth in the 16-18th centuries, they are the heirs of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He considered this to be the main issue for Polish national interests. Cooperation with the democratic opposition, with democratic public opinion in Russia is also very important, but for us it is most important to recognize the independence of these states. However, first their independence should be returned, these states should be provided support to, with good-neighborly relations established with them.

This remains relevant. There is no Soviet Union, these countries are independent, but the situation has not changed. First, Poland has a total border of 1,200 kilometers, and secondly, 300-400 years of common history.

– Why do you say that this initiative is very important now? You created it in 2018 — why is it necessary today to support this kind of eastern policy?

– We believe that in its current situation in the EU, Poland has an internal tendency to turn towards the West — both in a positive and in a negative sense. All parties to the political conflict are seeing it. Some believe that the European Union perceives us wrongly, and we need to secure our place in the European Union. Others believe that we need to look at Brussels and listen to it. Two sides of this conflict look to the West, to Brussels, to Berlin, pay attention to them. I noticed that even the problem of the Russian threat in Poland remains almost unnoticed.

– And how is this concept consistent with the concept of the authorities — the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? It seems that the main concept now is the concept of the Intermarium, which politicians pay attention to. But on the other hand, these concepts are a bit similar?

– The Intermarium concept is primarily about the countries of the European Union. This concept has not been fully formulated, but it is based on the cooperation of the weak. It makes sense — cooperation of weak, smaller countries in the European Union in the east. Poland is the largest state among them. These states lie on the eastern border or the eastern flank of the EU. Their cooperation gives them a little more strength in matters where they have common interests — both different and close interests. For example, in the issue of refugees, these states have similar interests. These countries also have a similar economic level — lower than other EU countries. In other words, it makes sense. Naturally, the states we are talking about are outside the European Union, but this does not change the fact that this is the same region. We are not planning to build a large Chinese wall on the eastern border and not look there. I decided to create this society, because from the point of view of Poland, good contacts in the East bring us benefits in the West. Poland is perceived as an expert in these matters.

– You are involved in Belarusian issues, we work on Belsat TV together. It means you are actively participating in what is happening in Belarus. How do you see the role of this Society in the Polish-Belarusian relations? Can it change something? Will it, perhaps, give you new tools for action?

– Yes, first of all, I think, it will be possible to draw attention to the existence of this problem. In Poland, one can observe more or less interest in Belarusian affairs. This is dictated by the internal political cycle and the external situation. Poles are particularly sensitive to all repression — when the dictatorship attacks. Then suddenly it turns out that the Polish society, which seems indifferent, and maybe adamant, is very supportive, ready to help, everyone is interested.

It was like this many times: in 2010, for example, you can recall it, and also during the Maidan in Ukraine. In this sense, there is a great tradition in Poland. It has been in place since the time of slavery, since the 19th century, that’s why people react in Poland. And if there are no brutal repressions, nothing much happenning, then Poland ceases to be interested in its neighbors. We even have a tendency to ignore the threats of Russian propaganda. Indeed, very little attention is paid to this in Poland. And in this regard, I believe that it is possible to invite experts to this Society, you can draw attention to certain things. We can pull Belarus, among other things, to a higher level of discussion in Poland.

– Thank you for the conversation. Of course, we all agree that a truly independent, democratic Belarus would be Poland’s best partner.

– I totally agree.

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