Author : Admin | Thursday, February 18, 2016

Recent developments

a) On February 2, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled plans to add more heavy weapons and armored vehicles to prepositioned stocks in Eastern Europe in order to give the Pentagon two brigade sets worth of heavy equipment on NATO’s eastern frontier. The White House plans to pay for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million.

According to a senior administration official, “this is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor.” Pentagon officials said that among the countries where the equipment and additional forces could be deployed are Hungary, Romania and the Baltic countries. The Pentagon wanted a “heel to toe” rotational troop presence in Eastern Europe, meaning that there would always be the equivalent of a brigade in the region.

The same day, a report was released by Rand Corporation to confirm that war games carried out with American military officers and civilian officials concluded that if Russian tanks and troops rolled into the Baltics at this moment, NATO forces would be overrun in less than three days.

In tabletop war games, played between 2014-2015, Russian forces were reaching the Estonian capital of Tallinn or the Latvian capital of Riga within 36 to 60 hours. U.S. and Baltic troops, including American airpower, proved unable to halt the advance of mechanized Russian units and suffered heavy casualties.

The study argued that NATO has been surprised by a resurgent and unpredictable Russia, which has begun to boost defense spending after having seized the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and intervened in support of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The report mentioned that such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad. The United States and its NATO allies could try to mount a counter-attack that could trigger an escalation by Russia, as Moscow would possibly see the allied action as a direct strategic threat to its homeland. A second option would be to threaten massive retaliation, including the use of nuclear weapons, similar to the Cold War period. A third option would be to concede at least a temporary defeat and embark on a new Cold War with Moscow.

The war games also illustrated that there are preemptive steps the United States and its European allies could take to avoid a catastrophic defeat and improve NATO’s eastern defenses, while making clear to Moscow that there would no easy victory. A force of about seven brigades in the area, including three heavy armored brigades, and backed up by airpower and artillery, would be enough “to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states.” The additional forces would cost an estimated $2.7 billion a year to maintain.

The findings from the war games echoed the earlier warnings from top military leaders, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, that Russia may represent the number one threat to U.S. interests. Accordingly, the prospective new forces are to be dispatched along a north-south direction, from the Baltic to the Black Sea region.

b) In this context, at the beginning of February, Romania’s Defense Minister announced that Romania will propose the creation of a permanent NATO fleet in the Black Sea and such a possibility might be discussed at the next Warsaw NATO summit. According to the minister, the NATO fleet is a strategic priority of the Romanian Army and should be operational by fall.

Since the 1936 Montreux Convention doesn’t allow warships of countries not on the Black Sea to spend more than 21 days there, only Romanian, Bulgarian, and Turkish ships might be part of the fleet, or the other countries would rotate their ships out regularly.

c) Also in the perspective of the NATO summit in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda took part to the 52nd Munich Security Conference (February 12-14, 2016), with a speech having as main subjects the European security pillars and the presence of NATO troops in the regions of conflict.

During his speech, Duda stressed that, in his opinion, the most important for Poland and for Eastern European countries now is strengthening NATO’s presence in the eastern flank of the alliance. “Our military security is now of [the utmost importance] when we see the situation in Ukraine, and when we heard from Russian politicians words like today.” He also said that “the next step should be to establish more bases, and increase the infrastructure of NATO in our part of Europe – in Poland, in the Baltic countries, in Romania, Bulgaria and others.”

d) On the side-lines of the Munich Conference, Andrzej Duda co-hosted, with the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a meeting of presidents and high-ranking politicians of the so-called Intermarium (Between Seas) region.

The meeting follows the creation of the so-called Adriatic- Baltic- Black Sea group, formed in 2015, during the 70th session of the UN, at the initiative of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. The informal high-level “Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Leaders’ Meeting” was co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and attended by the leaders of twelve European Union member states which span across the area between the Adriatic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia).

During the talks, Polish president Andrzej Duda stressed that such a group might support the Central and Eastern European countries’ interests in the European Union’s structures, since some agreements of Germany and France with Russia, as the “Nord Stream” pipeline, disregard the interests of these countries and even isolate – from the energy point of view – the central European countries, mainly Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Another example of an Eastern Europe “neglect” by the EU was France and Germany’s opposition against NATO establishing permanent military bases in some Central and Eastern European countries as it was requested by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania.
For many geopolitical analysts, the recent developments are examples of a process aiming to develop a West-allied power actor in the region between Europe and Russia, in such a manner in which to pre-empt a détente between Western Europe and Russia and to perpetuate the U.S.’ control over the continent. Some analysts argue that the U.S. fears that the top economies in continental Europe, and especially Germany, may enter into a détente with Russia, thus affecting the geopolitical balance.

The U.S.’ unease over this scenario was reflected in the decision to set up six regional command centers in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria to emphasize Washington’s new focus on the so-called “frontline states”. The objective is to embolden regional leaders to take on increased responsibilities, via a “lead from behind” strategy that was used in Libya.

The same preoccupation led to the current revival and development of several new regional security doctrines and projects involving the North-South-East Europe axis and inspired by the Intermarium project developed at the beginning of the 20th century by Polish strategist and statesman Josef Pilsudski.

Intermarium: a brief history

As devised by Polish strategist and statesman Josef Pilsudski, the Intermarium (named in Polish Miedzymorze – between seas, but known after its Latin name) and the Promethean doctrines were intended to make sure that neither Germany nor the Soviet Union would ever be able to grind Poland between them. 

The Intermarium was intended to create a massive concentration of power in central and Eastern Europe which could maintain a balance between East and West through a federal union of peoples between the Baltic and the Black Sea. The constituent states were to include Poland, the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia – all countries with sizeable Roman Catholic populations. The Intermarium, on paper at least, was large and powerful enough to supplant German and Russian influence in the Balkans and beyond.

The Promethean plan involved the breaking up of the USSR  into small relatively harmless states by stirring up nationalism in Georgia, the Don and Kuban Cossacks, Ingushetia, Idel-Ural, Azerbaijan, Yakutistan, Armenia, Crimea, Karelia and Komi with the hopes of detaching them from a weak rump government at Moscow. The Promethean plan was briefly hijacked by Hitler who also sought to foment rebellion in the wartime USSR by recruiting foreign legions from among POWs to be led by Nazi collaborators such as General Vlasov and the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera.

Historic precedents

Josef Pilsudski was inspired to develop the Intermarium concept by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that existed between the 16th and 18th centuries. During that period, there were also proposals for an “expanded” Commonwealth to include the Muscovites or the Ruthenians, but they were never achieved.

Pilsudski was from a family that originally owed its position to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the great powers of 16th and 17th century Europe. The destruction of that geopolitical force at the hands of invaders from both east and west provided the motivation behind Pilsudski’s vision of a belt of small states to hold in check both Russia and Germany.

In fact, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was itself rooted in the military alliance that came about as a response to the mutual threat posed by the Teutonic Order in the 14th century and materialized into the wedding of Poland’s Queen Jadwiga and the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila, who became King Wladyslaw II Jagiello of Poland.

An antecedent of Intermarium was developed at the beginning of the 19th century by Polish diplomat and statesman Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, who, in his book, Essai sur la diplomatie (Essay on Diplomacy), completed in 1827 and published in 1830, described Russia as a permanent threat to Europe.

Czartoryski observed that, “having extended her sway south and west, and being by the nature of things unreachable from the east and north, Russia becomes a source of constant threat to Europe” and that Moscow would have done better if it cultivated “friends rather than slaves.”

He also identified a future threat from Prussia and urged the incorporation of East Prussia into a resurrected Poland.

Czartoryski aspired to reconstitute – with French, British and Turkish support – a new Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth federated with the Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and all the South Slavs of the future Yugoslavia.

In his view, Poland could have mediated the conflicts between Hungary and the Slavs as well as between Hungary and Romania. While his plan seemed achievable during the period of national revolutions in 1848-49, it failed because of the lack of western support, the Hungarian intransigence toward the Czechs, Slovaks and Romanians, and the rise of German nationalism.

The British geographer and father of modern geopolitics Halford Mackinder had proposed something similar to the Intermarium. But whereas Mackinder was a scholar writing in a book, Pilsudski was a pragmatic political leader. 

In his 1904 paper, The Geographical Pivot of History, Halford Mackinder, highlighted the vital importance of Eastern Europe on which the security of the West depended. Mackinder offered a geographically deterministic paradigm and claimed that the steppes of Eurasia – extending from Mongolia through southern Ukraine all the way to the Hungarian Puszta – form the “geographic pivot of history” whoever controlled this “pivot” would inevitably dominate Eurasia, and, ergo, the entire world. Accordingly, a power must rule the “pivot”, to prevent chaos and barbarians coming in to fill the vacuum.

In 1920, Mackinder met Pilsudski in Warsaw and returned to London to lobby the British cabinet for the formation of a Western-orientated East European bloc, evidently based on Pilsudski’s Intermarium.

Pilsudski’s Intermarium fate

Pilsudski’s vision was a product not only of his family history but also of his own experience. He had saved Poland from invading Soviet forces in 1920 in the midst of a number of border wars and went on to become the primary founder of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. Pilsudski’s belief in a multicultural Poland to encompass his own Lithuanian background played well with his expansive vision of this anti-Russian belt of states that was, in turn, a spiritual and territorial descendant of that vast tract of territory that had constituted the late medieval and early modern Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched at its zenith from the shivering flatlands of northeastern Europe to the confines of the Ottoman Empire, in present-day Ukraine.

The Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were invited to join the Intermarium federation, in a project that was never expressed in a systematic fashion, since its author relied more on the pragmatic approach.

However, at that time, the Intermarium was perceived by some Lithuanians as a threat to their newly established independence, and by some Ukrainians as a threat to their aspirations for independence. It was also opposed not only by Russia but also by most Western powers, except France.

In fact, Pilsudski’s Intermarium faced an almost general opposition. Russia, whose sphere of influence was directly threatened, worked to thwart the Intermarium agenda. The Allied Powers assumed that Bolshevism was only a temporary threat and did not want to see their traditional ally, Russia, weakened. They resented Pilsudski’s refusal to aid their White allies, saw his plans as unrealistic and urged Poland to confine itself to areas of clear-cut Polish ethnicity.

The Lithuanians, who had re-established their independence in 1918, were unwilling to join; the Ukrainians, seeking independence, feared that Poland might subjugate them; and the Belarusians were not interested either in independence or in Pilsudski’s proposals of union. The chances for the project were also shattered by the post-World War I wars and border conflicts between Poland and its neighbors (the Soviets, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Czechoslovakia) in disputed territories.

Pilsudski’s concept was also opposed within Poland, where many politicians opposed the idea of a federation, preferring to work for a unitary Polish nation-state, and by 1920 even its author recognized that such a plan was not feasible.

When he became leader in Poland in 1926 (through a coup d’état) and assumed nearly dictatorial powers, Pilsudski himself focused on the assimilation of the country’s Eastern Slavic minorities and on the centralization of power.

Another Pilsudski plan was a federation or alliance with the Baltic and Balkan states, in a “Central European Union”. It was supposed to include Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Scandinavia, the Balkan states, Italy, Romania Bulgaria and Greece, stretching not only west-east from the Baltic to the Black Sea, but also north-south from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

This project also failed: Poland was distrusted by Czechoslovakia and Lithuania; and while it had relatively good relations with the other countries, they had tensions with their neighbors, making it virtually impossible to create in Central Europe a large block of countries that all had good relations with each other. In the end, in place of a large federation, only a Polish-Romanian alliance was established in 1921.

After Pilsudski’s death in 1935, the concept of Intermarium was taken up by the young generation of Polish conservatives between the wars, when the nationalist political camp has embraced this concept. Another version was developed by interwar Polish foreign minister Josef Beck, who proposed during the late 1930s a “Third Europe” – an alliance of Poland, Romania and Hungary – but which did not materialize before World War II began. According to some historians, the failure to create a counterweight to Germany and the Soviet Union, such as Pilsudski’s Intermarium, doomed the prospective member-countries to their eventual fate as victims of World War II.

The project came back in the Polish political thought with the foundation of Confederation of Independent Poland (Konfederacja Polski Niepodleglej – KPN), the first oppositional political party since 1947, which connected back to Pilsudski’s pro-independence movement, so it could not remain indifferent to its geopolitical thought. After 1980, when the collapse of the USSR and of the “socialist camp” seemed more and more inevitable, some of the other oppositional circles began to refer to the Intermarium project.

In July 1994, a “League of Parties of Intermarium Countries” was founded in Kiyv. The League consisted of pro-independence parties from six countries (Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine). Congresses took place in 1995 (Jaroslaw nad Sanem, Poland), 1996 (Minsk, Belarus) and 1997 (Kiyv, Ukraine). This initiative ended as a result of political changes in the countries involved.

The Intermarium idea was to be revived, in different moments and interpretations, by some of the potential participants.

During the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ‘990s, Belarus proposed the idea of creating a Baltic-Black Sea oil reservoir. The project was intended to connect the Ukrainian Crimea to Estonian oil and gas pipes, allowing the newly independent states to exchange energy freely, thus reducing dependence on oil and gas supplies from Russia. The project failed, not only for lack of financing, but also because the potential members have seen their participation differently, while the Baltic states ignored the idea.

However, the discussions stressed the idea to develop ​​the Baltic-Black Sea Union as a political alliance of a number of post-Soviet countries. In addition, in the same period, the Visegrad Group was established in Central Europe, consisting of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Member states pledged to seek integration into the European structures. The expert community in post-Soviet states at once conceived the idea of ​​uniting the Visegrad group with the Baltic-Black Sea Union (which had not even been formed at the time). But further discussions stayed behind the main political scenes.

In 2004, the members of the Visegrad Group have become EU members, but, nevertheless, the Intermarium project did not disappear, having as main promoters the Polish conservatives.
In some respects, it can be argued that Pilsudski and Mackinder’s vision has already been achieved with the expansion of NATO to include the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary in 1999, followed by the Baltics, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria in 2004. Yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that NATO is failing to satisfy the security concerns of many of its new members; concerns that were familiar to both Pilsudski and Mackinder.

Intermarium in current-day Poland

The Intermarium was promoted and became a line of reference for the foreign affairs strategy of late Lech Kaczynski, Polish President from 2005-2010.

In 2008, Lech Kaczynski saw the Intermarium as a means to oppose the Russian military aggression to Georgia. Once he understood that Moscow’s invasion of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia was nothing than the beginning of a larger-scale military activity by Russia in Central Eastern Europe, Lech Kaczynski built up a coalition between Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine committed to politically support Georgia and advocate Tbilisi’s integration within the EU and NATO. However, the project eventually failed because of the opposition of Lithuania, Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia.

He also approached the Intermarium from the economic angle, namely in the area of energy cooperation, as Kaczynski initiated a series of meetings between Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and the Baltic States. He wanted to pursue a diversification of energy suppliers and to open the European market to the Azeri oil producers via the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk pipeline. Lech Kaczynski strived to establish a network of contacts between the Polish and Caucasian elites and also looked further, hoping to use the opportunities offered by Kazakh energy resources. In the end, the leadership of Kazakhstan proved to be too heavily influenced by Russia to join Kaczynski at the events initiated by him.

The Smolensk crash: temporary end of the Polish new Intermarium

President Lech Kaczinski’s Intermarium strategies and projects ended suddenly in 2010 due to the so-called Smolensk crash that involved the Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 which, on 10 April 2010, carried a high-level Polish delegation which was to participate at a commemoration of the World War II Katyn massacre. All 96 passengers died, including Lech Kaczinski and several Polish political leaders and senior military officers.

According to the investigations, the pilots were attempting to land at the Severny airport near Smolensk – a former military airbase – in thick fog, with visibility reduced to about 500 meters. The aircraft descended far below the normal approach path until it struck trees, rolled inverted and crashed into the ground, in a forest area, at a short distance from the runway. Both the Russian and Polish official investigations found no technical faults with the aircraft, and concluded that the crew failed to conduct the approach in a safe manner in the given weather conditions.

Despite an absence of supporting evidence, the crash was followed by various conspiracy theories claiming that it was, in fact, a political assassination, an act of war against Poland or a coup attempt, possibly orchestrated by Russia.

Among the arguments invoked for these theories there is the role of the Russian air traffic controllers, who misled the Polish pilots by telling them that they were “on the right course”.

Also mentioned as evidence was the fact that the Russian rescue units arrived at the crash site very late – about 27 minutes after the disaster, while the special forces were in the area from the beginning. The plane’s black boxes, laptops, sensitive documents, mobile phones, address books, telephone numbers, correspondence, and the top-secret military, NATO and diplomatic codes on board were salvaged from crash site immediately by the Kremlin’s operatives in what was a “coup for Russia’s intelligence service” according to intelligence experts.

An intriguing fact was that the thick fog was present only around the Severny airport area, but not much farther away that its vicinity.

Another key piece of evidence is considered to be the fragmentation of the Soviet-built Tupolev aircraft and the dispersal of these pieces over a large area, which is specific for aviation accidents caused by explosions. In the case of Smolensk, it is argued that at least two internal explosions occurred.

At the beginning of February 2016, the new Law and Justice (PiS) government announced a new investigation into Smolensk crash. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said previous inquiries were riddled with “mistakes” and that the crash might have been caused by an explosion.

While still an opposition MP, the minister led the “Macierewicz Commission”, a group of parliamentarians mainly from the then-opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party which concluded in a 2014 report that the plane was brought down by an explosion. This was in stark contrast to official Polish and Russian military reports on the causes of the tragedy, which happened in dense fog on approach to a military airfield lacking ground identification radar. In the late autumn 2015, Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed support for Macierewicz’s experts, saying the official conclusions of Polish and Russian inquiries did not “hold up” when confronted with evidence.

Announcing the new investigation, Antoni Macierewicz suggested that the presidential plane had “disintegrated” between 15 and 18 meters before crashing, and that “these circumstances are not only a sufficient reason, but one that makes it compulsory to re-examine this tragedy.” He questioned the results of three previous investigations – two Polish and one Russian – that ruled out an explosion, saying the crash happened as a result of a combination of dense fog, poorly trained pilots and errors by Russian air traffic controllers.

A few days earlier, Antoni Macierewicz also claimed that Russian authorities have admitted the causes of the 2010 Smolensk air disaster remain unsolved, citing an interview of the Russian ambassador in Poland in the lead-up to the bilateral talks in Moscow involving the deputy foreign ministers of both countries.

In fact, Law and Justice’s leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s identical twin brother, and Antoni Macierewicz (also nicknamed “Black Hawk” because of his radicalism and sometimes extremist positions) have been described as longtime supporters of the assassination theory.

Local observers believe that Jaroslaw Kaczynski sees himself surrounded by dark powers hostile to the Poles, which is why he uses similarly inscrutable methods to shape his own policies. One of those methods was the appointment of Kaczynski’s confidant Mariusz Kamiski as intelligence services coordinator, a move that was seen as evidence of an intention to use the special services to fight political battles.

Sources close to the party leadership said the new government realized that, at a time when some Western countries want to rebuild ties with Moscow, prioritizing the case could complicate not only Poland’s relations with Russia, but also with its own allies. Poland was therefore likely to stick to well-established ways of challenging Moscow, such as international tribunal lawsuits over the withholding of evidence, technically Polish property. Poland is also likely to insist that its Western intelligence partners, who want Warsaw to join the fight against Islamic extremists, reciprocate by handing over any intelligence that may be relevant to the crash.

Echoing 1943 in Gibraltar

Historians and analysts who support the conspiracy theories in the Smolensk crash case did not fail to evoke a strangely similar case that took place in 1943 and led to the death of the Polish military and political leader Wladislaw Sikorski, who preceded the current-day conservatives in opposing the Russian-Western arrangements for the post-war splitting of Europe.

General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile and commander-in-chief of the Polish army, was killed on 4 July 1943, when his aircraft, a Consolidated Liberator II, crashed into the sea 16 seconds after takeoff from Gibraltar Airport. Only the aircraft’s pilot survived the crash.

Despite a British investigation soon after the crash – concluding that it had been an accident caused by the aircraft’s controls jamming – there were and continue to be accusations that Sikorski was assassinated.

Wladyslaw Sikorski, who became the leader of the Polish government in exile following Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, initially worked well with the Allied leaders. However, problems arose in 1943 when Sikorski requested the Red Cross launch an investigation into the Katyn massacre.

In the midst of the battle against the Nazi war machine, it would have been a more convenient truth for the Allies if the massacre had been carried out by Nazi soldiers. On 15 April, 1943, the British government announced via the BBC that it had accepted the Soviet Union’s version of events. Soon after, Sikorski’s plane crashed. Skeptics have argued that he was assassinated, either by British or Soviet forces, as a means to prevent a full investigation into the massacre, something which could have disrupted the precarious alliance between Britain and the Soviet Union.

Both Britain and Russia continue to refuse access to sections of their archives which could hold information on the affair. Although not necessarily proof of wrongdoing – the documents likely remain classified to protect the identities of wartime spies – it undoubtedly adds to the belief that a conspiracy of some sort took place on July 4th, 1943.

However, World War II documents declassified in 2012 by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration showed that Winston Churchill agreed with Stalin that no International Red Cross investigation should be carried out in German occupied territory into the Katyn massacre, as was requested by Wladislaw Sikorski.

In one of these documents – a cable sent to U.S. President Roosevelt – Churchill mentions that he agreed with Stalin that the idea should be opposed. “We shall certainly rigorously oppose any ‘investigation’ by the International Red Cross or any other body in any territory under German authority.” … “Such [an] investigation would be fraud and any conclusion reached by terrorism.”
The declassified files also showed that Churchill said he told Stalin that General Sikorski was in a “difficult position”, as he was under pressure in Poland to show he was standing up to the Soviet Union. “If [Sikorski] should go then we should end up with someone worse,” Churchill says of the Polish leader in April 1943. After British foreign minister, Anthony Eden urged Sikorski to drop calls for an international investigation into the Katyn massacre, Churchill reported to Stalin on 23 April 1943: “As a result of Eden’s strong representations Sikorski has undertaken not to press request for Red Cross investigation and will so inform the Red Cross authorities in Berne. He will also restrain Polish press from polemics… In this connection, I am examining possibility of silencing those Polish papers in this country which attack the Soviet Government and at the same time attack Sikorski for trying to work with the Soviet Government.”
While Churchill was trying to maintain diplomatic relations between Poland and the Soviet Union so as not to offer a propaganda coup for Hitler and weaken the allied effort, Stalin answered by stating in a return telegram dated 25 April 1945: “I would like to point out that the interruption of [Soviet] relations with the Polish government is already decided and today [Soviet foreign minister] V M Molotov delivered a note to this effect. Such action was demanded by my colleagues as the official Polish press is ceaselessly pursuing and even daily expanding its campaign hostile to the USSR.”

Conspiracy theories about the assassination blamed it on the Soviets, British, Nazis or even a dissenting Polish faction. Some of the earliest suggestions of a conspiracy were popularized by Nazi propaganda which suggested that Sikorski’s death was the result of a British-Soviet conspiracy. Other theories point to the British, the German  Abwehr or the Poles themselves, some of whom had shown animosity toward Sikorski for, at least from their point of view, his policy of “colluding” with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin (in fact, until the Katyn episode, Sikorski was still open to some normalization of Polish-Soviet relations).

Among the arguments for the British-Soviet involvement in the crash there is the fact that Sikorski’s plane was left unguarded at the Gibraltar airfield and a Soviet official plane was parked nearby. It is also mentioned that, at that time, the head of the British counterintelligence for the Iberian Peninsula was Kim Philby, who would later claim to have been a Soviet double agent since the 1940s and had an experience in sabotage and diversion behind enemy lines. Also, Sikorski’s daughter, who accompanied her father in Gibraltar but whose body was not found, was reported in 1945 to have been spotted in a Soviet Gulag by a member of the elite Polish commandos.

The incident is still described by some historians as mysterious, and since 2008 it has been under an investigation by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. Sikorski was exhumed and his remains were examined by Polish scientists, who in 2009 concluded that he died due to injuries consistent with an air crash, and that there was no evidence that Sikorski was murdered, ruling out theories that he was shot or strangled before the incident; however they did not rule out the possibility of sabotage.

New Polish Intermarium projects

The recent electoral success of Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) paved the way for its de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (also nicknamed “the Gray Cardinal”) to streamline his vision for Poland, which is inspired by his brother’s and Pilsudski’s Intermarium vision. In fact, the PiS considers itself heir to the old Pilsudski concept that Russia is a greater threat to Poland’s freedom than Germany.

The followers of PiS stress on patriotism, national defense and NATO. They are less then comfortable with Brussels and its social engineering. For historic reasons, they are worried about Berlin’s close relationship with Moscow. On the international scene, a return of the pro-Atlanticist option is to be expected, and a more robust focus on NATO (and defense), closer ties with London, less kowtowing to Brussels, and a veto to Berlin’s being closer to Moscow.

Some analysts even talk of a Polish version of Hungary’s foreign policy. The crucial difference is that there will most likely be no realignment towards Moscow.

The Intermarium-inspired Polish strategy was exposed by President Andrzej Duda (PiS) during the 2015 electoral campaign and immediately after his election. “I am considering the idea of ​​creating a partnership bloc stretching from the Baltic to the Black and the Adriatic seas. The state is strong when it is surrounded by allies – is also an element of increasing strength,” he said at the beginning of August 2015.

President Andrzej Duda also referred to the topic during his visit in Romania at the beginning of November 2015. He mentioned two crucial aspects in his speech relating to the Intermarium concept. Firstly he urged for all countries of Central and Eastern Europe to speak in a common voice. Secondly he added that Poland will pursue enlargement of the NATO bases in the region. He openly stated his determination to continue implementing the plan drafted by former President Lech Kaczynski, for Poland to play a greater role in the region.

Andrzej Duda advocates the need of a new diplomatic strategy for Poland, a concept that is sometimes called “Duda’s doctrine”, based on a more assertive role of Warsaw within Central Eastern Europe and NATO. In this doctrine, President Duda also formulated some reserves regarding the process of Poland’s integration within the European Union as well, in particular on the monetary point of view.

Duda argued the necessity for Poland to strengthen tights with those member states of the European Union which share the same problems, history, culture and worries, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Sweden. According to his doctrine, these countries are Poland’s natural partners and should form with Warsaw a common alliance within the European Union.

With respect to Ukraine, Andrzej Duda urged Poland to return to be the main advocate of the fast integration of Kyiv within the European Union.

Poland and Turkey

Polish analysts of the new Intermarium ideas – meant to assure Poland’s role as regional leader – also pointed out to the opportunity offered by Turkey, with its intention to become a valuable player in the Middle East and beyond.

While in recent months Turkey has been experiencing external and internal tensions, it also shares – similar to Poland – a long and rather turbulent history of diplomatic relations with Russia. The escalation of the war in Syria has become a bone of contention, as leaders of the states stand at opposing sides of the conflict. Before any increase in tensions, Turkey has to revise the possible impacts on its economy, especially with reference to the energy sector. Ankara now has an opportunity to cut off Russian supplies and make use of its own gas- and oil-rich region. Turkish leadership has already made the first steps in this direction, launching the construction of Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP). The finish date is planned before 2018, however it might be insufficient.

Both Poland and Turkey seem to have found a place in the region which completes their ambitions. It seems that unintentionally, Russia became a common point of reference for both states. This may result in finding mutual interest in tightened cooperation, reflecting very much in the saying, “enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In fact, both countries have already recognized themselves as valuable players in the region. What is more, Azerbaijan is likely to become another common point of reference for both countries. Poland would very much benefit from the launch of the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk pipeline, obtaining alongside Ukraine a role of an energy hub.

Intermarium as seen from the United States

An Intermarium doctrine revisited – as a strategy of maintaining the balance of power – was developed in the United States mainly by George Friedman and the analysts at Stratfor. It takes over from the Cold War’s “containment” of the Soviet Union, which involved creating an alliance comprising countries at risk of Soviet attack. Containment did not seek a defeat of the Soviet Union, but to increase for Moscow the risks of offensive action, using allied countries as the first barrier.

Similar to the containment policy of 1945-1989, the new U.S. Intermarium strategy would combine economy of force and finance to limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power while exposing the United States to limited and controlled risk. Some elements of this doctrine were developed by George Friedman in his books The Next 100 Years (2009), and The Next Decade (2010).
Also in a speech at the European Forum for New Ideas (EFNI) in 2012, George Friedman called upon Poland to take up a “leading role in Europe.” As “archaic” it may sound, a revival of Intermarium against Russia and Germany in alliance with the U.S. was in the national interest of Poland, Friedman explained.

The need to by-pass NATO

In the Stratfor approach, while the best mechanism for the United States to “contain” Russia with a military component would be NATO – which contains almost all of the critical countries except Azerbaijan and Georgia – the problem is that NATO, which was designed to fight the Cold War – is not functional anymore, mainly because there is no consensus among the countries’ perception of Russia.

Stratfor argues that the countries that were at risk from 1945 to 1989 are not the same as those at risk today. Many of these countries were part of the Soviet Union or Soviet satellites. The old alliance system was not built for this confrontation. The Estonia-Azerbaijan line has as its primary interest retaining sovereignty in the face of Russian power. The rest of Europe is not in jeopardy, and these countries are not prepared to commit financial and military efforts to a problem they believe can be managed with little risk to them. Therefore, any American strategy must bypass NATO or at the very least create new structures to organize the region.

While each of the various countries involved is unique and has to be addressed that way, these countries share the common danger that the Ukraine crisis could spread and directly affect their national security interests. These countries share a desire not to be dominated by the Russians, which can become a basis for forging them into a functional military alliance to deter Russian expansion. All of these countries need modern military equipment, particularly air defense, anti-tank and mobile infantry. In each case, the willingness of the United States to supply these weapons, for cash or credit as the situation requires, will strengthen pro-U.S. political forces in each country and create a wall behind which Western investment can take place. And it is an organization that others can join, which unlike NATO does not allow each member the right to veto.

Intermarium to the Caspian Sea

According to George Friedman, Poland, Romania and Azerbaijan must be the posts around which a new Intermarium alliance has to be built.

Poland, which  borders the Baltics and is the leading figure in the Visegrad group, is eager for a closer military relationship with the United States, as its national strategy has long been based on third-power guarantees against aggressors. The Poles cannot defend themselves and the Baltics, given the combat capabilities necessary for the task. 

Romania must be armed and supported in protecting Moldova and in organizing southeastern Europe. In Western hands, Moldova threatens Odessa, Ukraine’s major port also used by Russia on the Black Sea. In Russian hands, Moldova threatens Bucharest.

Azerbaijan should be included at the far end of the new alliance because, being Islamic and majority Shiite but secular, would become critical for limiting the regional spread of jihadists. Azerbaijan also would support the alliance’s position in the Black Sea by supporting Georgia. Also, from the energy point of view, the Caspian region, of which Azerbaijan is the lynchpin, is the only major alternative to Russia for energy.

Stratfor did not include Turkey in the new Intermarium, since they considered that its internal politics, complex relations and heavy energy dependence on Russia make it difficult. However, Turkey is seen in this alliance structure as France in the Cold War. It was aligned yet independent, militarily self-sufficient yet dependent on the effective functioning of others. Turkey, inside or outside of the formal structure, will play this role because the future of the Black Sea, the Caucasus and southeastern Europe is essential to Ankara. 

The Black Sea basin

The new Intermarium also takes into account the fact the Black Sea is the southern frontier of Ukraine and European Russia and the Caucasus, where Russian, jihadist and Iranian power converge on the Black Sea. Northern Syria and Iraq are fewer than 650 kilometers (400 miles) from the Black Sea. Consequently, it must become, for the U.S., the center point of an integrated strategy to confront both the Russian and the jihadist threats.

A Black Sea strategy would define the significance of Georgia, the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Even more important, it would elevate Azerbaijan to the level of importance it should have in U.S. strategy. Without Azerbaijan, Georgia has little weight. With Azerbaijan, there is a counter to jihadists in the high Caucasus, or at least a buffer, since Azerbaijan is logically the eastern anchor of the Greater Black Sea strategy.

A Black Sea strategy would also force definition of two key relationships for the United States. The first is Turkey, which is the second major native Black Sea power. It has interests throughout the Greater Black Sea Basin, namely, in Syria, Iraq, the Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine. An explicit Black Sea-centered strategy would make both countries to re-examine their strategic relationship.

In the Stratfor project, while Turkey is seen as the southern anchor of the Intermarium, the political trends in Turkey make such a project difficult, since it lacks the consensus and coherence to deploy its power in a meaningful way. It is assessed that, after the June 7 2015 election, which stripped the ruling Justice and Development Party of its majority in a highly polarized electorate, Turkey will slide into a period of political instability reminiscent of the 1970s, when inconclusive elections and stalemated coalitions characterized the country’s politics.

A Turkey subsumed by its own political divisions is obviously not an ideal ally for the United States, and that stress will only increase as Turkey descends into a more unstable state and searches for a hidden foreign hand to blame for its troubles. But even if Turkey is currently a weak link in the U.S. alliance for Eurasia that does not mean that the United States can afford to leave Turkey off the chain.

In the U.S. analysis, the Poles and the Romanians especially have been looking to Turkey because Turkey is on the southern edge of the Black Sea. It controls the entrance to the sea. So from a Russian military strategic perspective, having an alliance or at least some kind of understanding with Turkey is essential for their naval power. And so for other Black Sea countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, assuring that Turkey remains a committed and involved member of NATO is crucial.

The second critical country is Romania, which, as a Black Sea nation, is not limited by the Montreux Convention which prohibits the unlimited transit of a naval force into the Black Sea through the Bosporus, controlled by Turkey. Since Romania’s naval combat power only consists on a few aging frigates backed up by a half-dozen corvettes, supporting Romania in building a significant naval force in the Black Sea would provide a deterrent force against the Russians and also shape affairs in the Black Sea that might motivate Turkey to cooperate with Romania and thereby work with the United States. The traditional NATO structure can survive this evolution, even though most of NATO is irrelevant to the problems facing the Black Sea Basin. If Poland anchors the North European Plain, in the Black Sea area Romania becomes a critical partner in the European Peninsula. It will feel the first pressure if Russia regains its position in Ukraine. 

A worrying element: Germany

The Stratfor-developed vision of the Intermarium concept – as a Western cordon sanitaire west of Ukraine – was briefly exposed by George Friedman in a presentation hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on February 4, 2015. It was followed by a Q&A session, with an interesting topic concerning Germany, on which George Friedman made the following points:
“This [the Intermarium] is the solution for the United States.  The issue to which we don’t have the answers, what will Germany do?  So, the real wild card in Europe is that as the United States builds its cordon sanitaire, not in Ukraine, but to the west, and the Russians try to figure out how to leverage the Ukrainians out; we don’t know the German position. Germany is in a very peculiar position. Its former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on the board of Gazprom.  They have a very complex relationship to the Russians. The Germans themselves don’t know what to do.  They must export, the Russians can’t take up the export.  On the other hand, if they lose the free trade zone, they need to build something different. (…)

For the United States the primordial fear is Russian capital, Russian technology … I mean, German technology and German capital, Russian natural resources, Russian manpower, as the only combination that has for centuries scared the hell out of the United States.

So how does this play out? Well, the U.S. has already put its cards on the table.  It is the line from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

For the Russians, their cards have always been on table.  They must have at least a neutral Ukraine, not a pro-Western Ukraine. Belarus is another question.  Now, whoever can tell me what the Germans are gonna do, is gonna tell me about the next 20 years of history, but unfortunately the Germans haven’t made up their mind, and this is the problem of Germany always. Enormously economically powerful, geopolitically very fragile, and never quite knowing how to reconcile the two. Ever since 1871 this has been the German question, the question of Europe. Think about the German question, because now it’s coming up again. That’s the next question that we have to address and we don’t know how to address it, we don’t know what they are going to do.”

The Russian perspective

From the Russian point of view, the U.S.-developed new Intermarium is part of NATO’s adaptation to a New Cold War, which is to subdivide into semi-autonomous military blocs strategically along geographic and historical lines. The purpose behind this self-initiated break down is to make the cumbersome alliance more efficient in specific theaters, with each regional “Lead From Behind” partner feeling as though they have an historical stake in carrying out the U.S. objectives. Through this restructuring, the U.S. aspires to rebrand NATO as a ‘swarm’ of smaller interlinked blocs.

Andrew Korybko, an American political commentator working for Sputnik News agency and “Oriental review”, described some of the “smaller blocs” as:
– The “Viking Bloc”, a greater Scandinavian alliance led by Sweden and having as members Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and possibly Estonia and Latvia as lesser proxies. It functions as a 21st century version of an expanded Swedish Empire.

– The “Commonwealth Bloc”, with Poland at its core and including Lithuania and Ukraine, its objective being to recreate the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, also targeting Belarus and Western Ukraine.
– The “West Balkan/Adriatic Bloc”, less integrated than the previous two, which can use the ethnic and/or territorial ambitions of Albania and Croatia to destabilize the Central Balkans via Croatian Bosnia and the supposed territory of Greater Albania. The other affiliated members are Slovenia, NATO-aspirant Montenegro, and the NATO protectorates of Bosnia and occupied Kosovo.
– The “Black Sea Bloc”, which functions as the geo-pivotal cornerstone for the restructured alliance. Romania and Bulgaria are the two NATO members of this regional arrangement, to which one may add Moldova and Georgia.
The “Black Sea Bloc” of Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Georgia, together with the “Viking” and “Commonwealth” Blocs of Greater Scandinavia and the former Polish conquests, add to re-create Pilsudski’s Intermarium cordon sanitaire, a belt of anti-Russian states stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas. This new Intermarium allows NATO to form three separate fronts against Russian interests, targeting it from the Arctic/Baltic, Eastern Europe, and the Black Sea, respectively.

Countering the Black Sea Bloc

The Black Sea Bloc is considered by the Russian analysts as the physically weakest yet strategically most dangerous for Russia of NATO’s regional fighting formations. They identified three major vulnerabilities that could be used to significantly impede its functioning. The Black Sea Bloc is seen as being plagued by:
– The Hungarian awakening in Romania, with the Hungarians forming an increasingly vocal minority which may become even more assertive of various rights and privileges as time goes on. In fact, there have already been pro-autonomy marches demanding a degree of political separateness from Bucharest. Moreover, the process may become more of a reality as the Hungarian government continues to be perceived as a threat by its formal European ‘partners’. Just as Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, almost made war over Cyprus, a similar scenario could possibly play out between Hungary and Romania. In the event that the Jobbik Party comes to power in Budapest in 2018 or acquires a commanding influence over policy, Budapest would likely become much more assertive over the issue, thus raising the prospects for its potential actualization even more.
– A deepening of the political paralysis in Moldova, where there is a narrow margin between the pro-NATO and the Russian-friendly groups. Another factor that could freeze the radical process of Moldova’s Euro-Atlantic orientation would be some type of revolt or large-scale resistance in Gagauzia, a small region in Moldova outside Transnistria where the people are looking towards Russia. By whatever means, if the pro-Western Moldovan coalition can become paralyzed, the likelihood of a Romanian absorption and intensified Shadow NATO membership becomes diminished.
– The Bulgarian State’s failure, with the state being the poorest country in the EU, having a level of corruption three times higher than the EU average, and with more Bulgarians working outside the country than within it. Bulgaria’s stability is vulnerable to any sudden changes in foreign currency exchange rates and the strength of the Euro. If a situation occurs where Bulgarian migrants flock back to their home country (either out of a major recession in their host market or discrimination against them), then the combination of poverty, joblessness, and inefficient state services could compel individuals to take part in organized crime, further destabilizing the state. Such a scenario would be facilitated by eventual tensions between Bulgarians and ethnic Turks during this period of uncertainty.

Medium and Long-Term Assessment

The foundation of the Intermarium project is the aim of creating, in the area between Russia and Germany, a pole of power able to counterbalance the power of either of these two neighbors. The aim of creating such a pole is to secure the area from imperial attempts by Russia and Germany and to create conditions for unconstrained development of the nations of the region. Such a complex process will be marked by favoring and opposing factors that will prolong it by years, whether by increasing or by decreasing the chances of an Intermarium actually taking shape.

Common geopolitical and socio-cultural elements

The countries of the area are often divided into two sub-regions, the Carpathian Mountains being the borderline: the proper Baltic-Black Seas Intermarium (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine) and the Danube-Balkan segment. Both sub-regions are also called the ABC area after the Adriatic, Baltic, and Black (Czarne in Slavic languages) Seas.
The basic element creating unity in the area is the fact that it has been and still is an object of constant expansion by Russia and Germany, (historically also of Sweden and Turkey). The Russian and German expansionism into this area is shown by their respective geopolitical doctrines, such as “Mitteleuropa,” “Lebensraum,” “the Brezhnev doctrine,” and the “near abroad.”
In addition, for some researchers there are several social and cultural elements that might bring together the countries in the region:
– The agrarian element in the national cultures of the area. Almost all of the nations have reconstructed their elites after a long period of time on the basis of the peasantry, or in the case of the Poles and Hungarians, and partly the Romanians, their elites are connected with the rural culture. In all of these nations, except for the Czechs, the local bourgeoisie was weak in terms of cultural traits.
– The presence of a Slavic element, including the case of the Baltic countries, Hungary, and Romania which have strong connection with Slavic cultures. The absorption of Slavic elements by the Hungarian and Romanian ethnos in the process of their development is well-known.
– The common social experience of communism in the 20th century for most of the countries, which might enable a common understanding among them.
– The concept of the nation understood in ethnic (anthropological) categories which dominate in the region, contrary to Western Europe, where civic nationalism is more common. A member of a nation is a person who is connected with the nation by origin, language, and common culture (often also by religion); citizenship plays a less important role. 

Towards a new pan-European identity

The Intermarium concept is seen by some analysts as evidence of the development of a pan-European identity among Eastern Europeans. It is apparent in connection to the refugee problem that generated an increasing awareness that this is a problem for Europe as a whole, and that the EU does not have Europe’s common interests at heart. The recently re-emerged military threat from Russia and pressure from the EU to accept non-white immigrants have brought Eastern Europeans closer together and imbued them with a sense of common destiny. They are increasingly aware that more than just the future of their countries is at stake; what is at stake is the future of European civilization. In this context, analysts see the possibility that Eastern Europeans may assume a leading role, in a change of attitude already occurring, but which will only become effective if it becomes the animating principle of a new political power bloc. 
The Intermarium can thus refer to an alternative to both Euroasiatic Russia and the Atlanticist West, which should encompass the following nations, roughly from North to South: Estonia (population 1.3 million); Latvia (2.3 million); Lithuania (3.6 million); Belarus (10.3 million); Poland (38.6 million); Ukraine (45 million); The Czech Republic (10.6 million); Slovakia (5.4 million); Hungary (10 million); Romania (19 million); Moldova (4.4 million); Slovenia (2 million); Croatia (4.5 million); Serbia (7.5 million); Bosnia (3.9 million); Montenegro (600,000); Bulgaria (7.6 million); Macedonia (2 million).

With a total population of 178 million, mostly European people (compared to Russian’s population of 143 million, many of whom are non-European), Intermarium could be enormously powerful and largely self-sufficient, given proper investment in infrastructure and armaments. This would effectively eliminate Eastern Europe’s dependence upon U.S. and Western Europe for security.

Intermarium would be able to pursue its own independent policy, both internally and externally. It would be a genuine geopolitical counterweight to both Russia and the West.

A Baltic-Black Sea Union can take different forms. It can be a centralized entity or a loose confederation, with different gradations between these two options possible. Needless to say, it will not be limited to current EU member states, but will include Ukraine and Belarus as integral parts – heirs to the ancient Kievan Rus.

Prospective interests for Intermarium

In the future, Intermarium might become the end point for the Chinese-driven project of the “Silk Road” and strengthen the economies of its member states, due to a favorable geopolitical location, extensive logistics network, and combined industrial and agricultural potential.

Intermarium may also become popular in the context of the crisis that marks some existing international institutions, such as the OSCE, the EU and NATO. The Baltic states see that they can get neither military nor political-military help from the EU against a possible threat from Russia. Therefore, the efforts of cooperation of the countries that have a powerful enough army, the ability to repel aggression, especially with Ukraine and Poland, offer an alternative. In this respect, Intermarium may be also interesting for Moldova. However, experts agree that it is not the case for Belarus, which is an important link in the Baltic-Black Sea chain, given Minsk’s dependence on Moscow.

Preventing a German energy hub (with Russian resources)

Among the arguments for stronger ties and common positions in the Intermarium region, one of the most important refers to Germany’s need to maintain a specific relationship with Russia, determined mostly by economic/energy factors.

If the conflict between the West and Russia escalates, an oil and gas embargo could be one of the sanctions considered against Russia. Especially when it comes to natural gas, however, it will be hard to find alternatives for Russian imports. The Bruegel Institute, a Brussels-based think tank, did rough calculations that show it would be a huge endeavor to find an alternative source for the 130 billion cubic meters of natural gas reaching the EU from Russia. Germany alone uses 90 billion cubic meters of the gas.

a) In this context, it was noted that at the end of 2015, Germany pressured the European Commission to cut a deal with Russia, in order to avert Moscow’s measures against Ukraine when its trade agreement with the EU comes into force (1 January 2016).

Berlin has proposed a joint declaration between the EU and Russia offering Moscow the prospect of long-sought investment and energy concessions to create a more integrated economic area from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The suggestions were outlined in a November 2015 letter from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, to Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s trade chief.
The German initiative of the joint declaration is seen by Berlin as a way to “create space and move towards Russia”. But it falls short of the legally binding trilateral deal sought by Moscow.

On the other hand, the German letter, which was not formally shared with member states, has alarmed some eastern European and Baltic states, also because it was sent shortly before Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, issued an invitation to Vladimir Putin, Russian president, to begin exploring ways for the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia-led EEU) and EU to draw closer once the Minsk ceasefire accord in east Ukraine was complete.

Linas Linkevicius, Lithuanian foreign minister, has expressed dismay at Mr. Juncker’s initiative, saying it did not have the support of EU member states. He also noted Mr. Juncker’s letter made no reference to EU sanctions against Russia, which the EU must decide whether to renew in the next two months.

b) Another example of Germany’s intentions to become an energetic “hub” using Russia’s resources is the so-called North Stream II project, with which Russia hopes to send gas to its clients in Europe bypassing Ukraine.

On January 8 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi about Italy’s involvement in several of Moscow’s proposed energy projects, including the Nord Stream II pipeline, some aspects of which Rome has vocally opposed.

Nord Stream II has received mixed support from Europe, mainly because the pipeline would signal Russia’s persistent energy ties to Germany at a time when Berlin is defending the continuation of sanctions against Russia because of events in Ukraine. Countries that firmly oppose any sort of Russian encroachment on the Continent have pushed back against Nord Stream II. These countries include Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.

Italy also counts itself among the pipeline’s strongest European critics, and not because of any risk for its energy security, but rather because of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s irritation with the actions of Germany and the European Union as a whole. In recent months, Renzi has more openly challenged Berlin and Brussels on the issues of sanctions, immigration and security priorities. Therefore, Renzi’s resistance is likely as much a statement against Germany, which supported the Nord Stream project while opposing South Stream, as it is against the pipeline itself.

According to energy analysts, the recent Putin-Renzi talks were an attempt to secure Italy’s support for Nord Stream II in exchange for allowing it to be involved in the project. Italy’s Saipem stands a good chance of being selected for the job, since it is a premier offshore contractor and was chosen to build Nord Stream I.

Powerful opposing factors

As in the case of Josef Pilsudski’s project, the new Intermarium concepts are facing strong opposition, not only from the main power actors – Germany and Russia – but also from other outside and even inside forces.

The main opponents of the realization of the Intermarium project are, conceivably, Russia and Germany, but also the advocates of a European superstate.

In the case of Russia, is should be noted that that despite the successes of Vladimir Putin in overcoming domestic troubles and in international relations, the systematic demographic tendency toward a decreasing Russian population has not changed. Facing the long-term prospect of the loss of a part of Siberia in favor of China, in one form or another, Moscow needs to maintain control over its Western “near abroad”, thus maintaining the principles of the so-called “Brezhnev Doctrine”.

The “doctrine of limited sovereignty” was first outlined in September 26, 1968, in the article “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries” published by “Pravda”. Soon after, Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, reiterated it at the 5th Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Warsaw – Nov 12, 1968:
“But it is well known, comrades, that there are common natural laws of socialist construction, deviation from which could lead to deviation from socialism as such. And when external and internal forces hostile to socialism try to turn the development of a given socialist country in the direction of restoration of the capitalist system, when a threat arises to the cause of socialism in that country – a threat to the security of the socialist commonwealth as a whole – this is no longer merely a problem for that country’s people, but a common problem, the concern of all socialist countries.”

This doctrine was meant to justify not only the August 1968 invasion in Czechoslovakia, but also the earlier Soviet interventions (including the invasion in Hungary in 1956) in order to put an end to any movement that had the potential to compromise the Soviet hegemony in the “socialist camp”, which, in fact, was the USSR’s cordon sanitaire facing NATO.

The Brezhnev doctrine allowed only limited independence for the communist parties in the satellite states, the Soviet leadership being the only authority that could define “socialism” (and any eventual “deviance” from the concept). In fact, its principles were broad enough for the Soviets to use even in the case of the 1979 military intervention in Afghanistan (which was not a “socialist camp” or a Warsaw Treaty member state). It was maintained as a Soviet official policy until 1981, when the Kremlin decided not to intervene militarily in Poland in order to crush the “Solidarity” movement, and later on, in 1989 when Mikhail Gorbachev did not use military force when “Solidarity” won the elections in Poland against the Polish United Workers’ Party.

In the context of the Ukrainian crisis, several analysts noted that the “new” Russian policy with regard to the post-Soviet states was very close to the Brezhnev doctrine, since it imposed – as a precondition to recognize their independence and territorial integrity – their recognition of Russia’s role as defender of Russian-speaking communities, as well as specifically understood “good neighborly relations” (meaning in fact limited sovereignty). In 2014, during the talks with the new Ukrainian government, former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso alluded to this policy and said that “the doctrine of limited sovereignty should belong to history books”, adding that “history belongs to those that embrace the future, not to those who try to hijack it”.

Also to be noted is the convergence of German and Russian interests, not only the economic “match” between the developed and energy-consuming Germany, and the Russian provider of almost inexhaustible energy resources. If the aim of German policy is the regaining of losses – including immaterial ones, such as international position –suffered after the defeat in the Second World War, it is difficult to conceive Germany regaining territory in Central Europe if the region creates a strong political structure. Such a structure would also not be in favor of Russia, thus the German-Russian cooperation against the countries of Intermarium (especially against Poland as a potential leader of the region) is completely natural.

In fact, Germany is already taking steps to maintain a kind of “lebensraum” in Central and Eastern Europe, by improving its research in the region. Such a step was the plan of the German government, announced in 2015, to open an academic institute that will be tasked with researching the region of the former Soviet Union. The German Foreign Office will provide more than €5 million by 2017 for the building of the institute.

According to an account in the Tagesspiegel, the goal of the institute is to analyze developments in the post-Soviet areas and advise decision makers. Its purpose will not be pure research, but “application-oriented knowledge” a reference to the possibility of the institute to serve as a think tank for a more active German foreign policy in Eastern Europe.

In the case of the advocates of the EU as a superstate, they represent an ideological project aimed against all strong national and religious identities, striving to create a “European” identity by uprooting national identities. The Intermarium project must provoke dislike in these circles for two main reasons.

First, are “cultural” reasons: the nations inhabiting the region, due to the common experience of communism, are more attached to their identities which have so often been threatened. Thus, they are unwilling to renounce these identities for the sake of a European mirage, especially when they see that it is often a tool hiding national interests of the old members of the EU.

Second, the Intermarium nations have also the experience of Russian hegemony. It induces them to cooperate with the United States, which is appreciated as an ally possessing not only strength but also the will to use it.

Internal weak points of the Intermarium-shaping process

Among the main “weak points” that prevent, for the time being, a Intermarium project is generated by the different strategic interests of the region’s states, as well as fact that none of them is strong enough to take over the burden of “outsiders” such as Ukraine and Belarus.

In the case of Ukraine, its current difficult situation is adding to the still powerful nationalist groups – inspired mainly by war-time nationalist leader Stepan Bandera – that oppose any regional leading role of Poland and are viewed with resentment in the region.

Stepan Andriyovych Bandera was the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist and independence movement, and still a controversial historical figure honored by the contemporary Ukrainian nationalist movement and far right organizations and at the same time condemned as a murderer by ethnic Poles and Jews. His group’s strategy to achieve Ukrainian independence included violence and terrorism against “foreign and domestic enemies”, notably Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia.

In the case of the other Intermarium states, differences are greater than common elements. The states with no direct borders with Russia see no need for any new integration projects, not to mention that Russia still remains a source of energy and raw materials for many Central European countries.

Central Eastern Europe pro-Russian countries, as Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary oppose any initiative proposed by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Georgia to counterbalance Russia’s military warfare.

There are also bilateral contradictions between the new EU members in Eastern and Central Europe, despite plenty of common interests. Poland has an uneasy relationship with Lithuania. Interests of the Baltic countries, to some extent, differ from those of Central European countries. Some Central European states, such as Hungary, play solo and their interests do not always coincide with the interests of those countries which have been quite critical toward Russia.

Another danger to the Intermarium concept is considered to be the ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe. There are Polish minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. There are Lithuanians in Poland. There are Hungarians in Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Romania. While Intermarium could provide a framework to settle these problems, for the moment they are seen as impeding factors for its creation.

For most analysts, the Intermarium countries are too divided to form a common front. Hungary is in the hands of the headstrong Victor Orbán who enjoys increasingly warm ties with Vladimir Putin. The Czech and Slovak governments (and especially the Czech President, Milos Zeman) dislike confronting Russia. Bulgaria is also considered unreliable.
The problem for Poland is that it does not have enough allies in the putative Intermarium to create a critical mass for solidarity and decision-making. It can rely strongly on Estonia, usually on Latvia and Lithuania, and probably on Romania.


The new Intermarium is still far from taking shape. The issue of actually creating Intermarium will only arise when this idea gains support of broader social groups and becomes one of the political trends in all potential member states. The major geopolitical players may reconsider the Intermarium project only if faced by major new threats, such as terrorism and the spread of civil conflicts.

Nevertheless, a trend is visible, and one may be witnessing the start of a remarkable reversal of Cold War alliances. Europe is again dividing into halves, but this time it is Eastern Europe that wants to draw closer to the U.S. because it increasingly doubts that NATO alone will be an effective defensive barrier against Russia. Meanwhile, the countries of Western Europe, worried about the tide of refugees and terrorist attacks at home, seek to draw closer to Russia (the Ukraine crisis notwithstanding) as a hedge against the chaos emanating from Syria.

On the other hand, an indispensable factor for launching an Intermarium-type project is a sponsor from outside the region, which can only be the United States. Until the U.S. is ripe for forming such an alliance, it’s too early to seriously consider viability of this integration. For the moment, high-level meetings between the Intermarium countries have intensified, as the Pentagon and State Department act as hubs for all these countries’ militaries, intelligence services and diplomatic corps to interact. Stronger U.S. support to Eastern and Central Europe must be matched by stronger bilateral ties between the countries themselves, as well as by increased defense expenditures in the region. This is all a function of geography that Mackinder and especially Pilsudski were the first to address.

The near future has the elements also to assess the future of the Intermarium project. In July 2016, Warsaw will host the NATO summit, where important decisions about the Alliance’s position in Central and Eastern Europe will be adopted.

Currently, the Intermarium finds itself in a state of conceptual flux. The void is being filled by the return of nineteenth-century geopolitics on the national level. The old “concert of powers” appears to have been resurrected, much to the unease of small and medium states. Even so, no outcome is written in stone. After all, political actors possess free will.

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