by George Friedman
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
Like many nations, Poland’s strategy seeks to “preserve its national identity and independence,” but it attempts to do so in a particularly challenging geographic and political environment. Located on the North German Plain with only a small part of its heartland protected by mountains, 17th-century Poland allied with Lithuania and sought security through expansion at the expense of its then weakened neighbors: Russia and the Holy Roman Empire. By 1795, an emergent Germany, strengthened Russia, and aggressive Austria turned the tables by gradually dividing Poland out of existence.
At the end of World War I, Poland regained its independence but remained vulnerable to two of its powerful neighbors. STRATFOR founder George Friedman points out that Poland had few security options: It could offer to be a buffer that both Germany and Russia would accept; seek an alliance with one or the other, which risked absorption; look to an outside power, initially France and Great Britain, to guarantee its independence. In 1939 the latter failed; its two guarantors could not or would not come to Poland’s aid before Germany and Russia had overrun its small army.
When Poland meaningfully regained its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Poland sought a new guarantor, effectively the United States, through membership in NATO. An old question remains: Can it build an army strong enough to hold Russia at bay long enough for German forces and ultimately the Americans to arrive—if they are willing. A variant on that strategy would be an understanding with Ukraine and Belarus to buffer Poland in the East, at least until Western assistance could arrive.
For Poland, much depends, concludes Friedman, on the Western powers and the United States as well as Poland having the finances and the will to maintain an army sufficient to hold the line against a Russian invasion for a period of several months.