“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” The words of George Washington, first president of the United States and a soldier, so somebody who might be expected to know a thing or two about war and peace. And when it comes to cultivating peace and harmony with all, Poland is ready to share responsibility for global peace and security.
Speaking in the Polish parliament on Wednesday, the foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz said: “Poland stands ready to share responsibility for peace and security in Europe and beyond, in the spirit of the 360 degree approach.” He added that “to defend allied territory, Polish troops are present in Latvia and Romania as part of NATO forces, while Polish aircraft police the skies over Lithuania.”
Delivering his annual foreign policy speech, Czaputowicz told deputies that Poland is also helping to combat terrorism and address the causes of migration beyond NATO, through activities in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean and Africa. “Furthermore, we are part of military operations of the Global Coalition against Daesh, and of NATO’s training missions in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar,” he said. Some 1,500 Polish soldiers are currently stationed abroad, standing as “an example of solidarity with our allies,” Czaputowicz said. “Their commitment is helping to maintain peace in the world, and it is making our country safer”.
Moving to the priorities for Polish foreign policy over the year ahead, Caputowicz said that “today Poland is an active country whose voice is being heard, and a country that commands growing respect among its foreign partners.” And in this area, “our overriding aim must be to restore the EU’s full and unquestionable legitimacy, to win back voters’ trust in European institutions, and to restore their ability to solve people’s real problems,” Czaputowicz said.
The foreign minister warned that the European project was under threat from populist movements on both the left and the right. “We consider these threats as a symptom of the crisis Europe is going through, not as its cause. The EU institutions should operate on the basis of powers set out in the treaties and pursue objectives that advance [the interests of] all the members.”
“We are in favour of a strong EU, enjoying the support of the countries and nations that are part of it, an EU that contributes to the economic growth and prosperity of its societies and supports equalising the living standards of citizens of all member states,” the minister said. For Czaputowicz, “by taking care of Europe’s future, we are also looking out for Poland’s interests.”
And the priorities for relations with the United States include the continued efforts to expand the US military presence in Poland (please see Historic), the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank, and joint security and defence projects, including enhancing energy security cooperation. Polish-US energy cooperation should make Poland less dependent on Russian gas and he said that Poland, like the US, will consistently oppose the Nord Steam 2 project.
By supplying the Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing eastern EU member states, the project is seen as a threat to the region’s and the EU’s energy security. A major part of Russian gas is currently exported via Ukraine. It would be possible once Nord Stream 2 is operational to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine, while leaving those to western Europe undisturbed. The situation to the east of Poland remains a challenge for Poland, he said and noted Russia’s continuing aggressive policy against Ukraine
Other issues tackled in Cazputowicz’s speech included Brexit, Polish-Israeli relations, relations with France and Germany, including renewing cooperation via the Weimar Triangle. He also stressed the role played regional cooperation as an element of European integration, through the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), the Three Seas Initiative (countries located between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas), and the Bucharest Nine (Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria).
In the conclusion to his speech, Czaputowicz appealed for cross-party cooperation in foreign policy, stating that “the country’s foreign policy is a national, and not a party matter.” And that is the point. Perhaps not going quite so far as Lord Palmerston, that nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests, Poland’s foreign policy appear to have a coherence which, leaving aside the current manages realistically to balance a response to historical threats with current opportunities and long-term security.