“I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.” The words of Douglas MacArthur. And, on the threats from without, Thomas Jefferson suggests, “For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized militia is their best security.” Both of which ideas have been taken to heart by the government of Poland, a country for which security has always been of major concern. Thus the Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, has gone into bat on seeking Polish membership of the United Nations Security Council.
Speaking after a meeting in New York on Monday with the new UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Waszczykowski said that Poland has a good chance of being chosen as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the obtaining of which membership in 2018-2019 was the objective of his two day visit. Waszczykowski said he would also meet several dozen ambassadors from various countries to argue Poland’s case.
The UN Security Council comprises five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States) each of which has a veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the UN General Assembly for a term of two years. One non-permanent place goes to a country from Eastern Europe and Poland has undertaken a number of diplomatic efforts in recent months to seek support for its election. The vote takes place in June.
Waszczykowski was also to take the opportunity to meet Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice his national security adviser to discuss the possible closer ties between Moscow and Washington under Trump. “We are not blocking such closer ties, provided that this does not happen at our expense,” said Waszczykowski. In his view previous attempts to “reset” ties with Russia have seen countries such as Poland lose out and have made the Kremlin bolder. “We are in favour of looking for a modus vivendi in talks and cooperation with Russia, but based on principles based on international law,” he said.
And he has a point. Compared to NATO countries, on any analysis – demographic, economic, military forces – Russia is in the weaker position but, unlike NATO countries, brother Putin is not constrained by consensus or reasonableness and so is free to pursue his mischief making without, it seems, effective opposition. NATO is strengthening its presence in this region with the deployment of four rotating multi-national battalions of some 1,000 soldiers each and, in addition, the US is to deploy an armoured brigade of 4,500 soldiers which will, according to defence minister Macierewicz arrive in Poland on 12th January.
Polish Radio reported that the soldiers from the 3rd armoured brigade had reached Germany and on Friday were starting to unload heavy equipment sent by sea from the US to the port of Bremerhaven. The equipment will be sent by train and in military convoys to Poland, initially to the western towns of Drawsko Pomorskie and Żagań. Polish Radio added that part of the US brigade will then be deployed in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania, as well as in Poland.
Inevitably, while the Jeffersonian “well-ordered militia” is thus being bolstered, shades of the MacArthurite “insidious forces from within” were manifest in the form of protesters demonstrating in the centre of Bremerhaven against the presence of US troops with similar protests taking place in other German towns according to Polish private broadcaster, TVN. It seems unlikely that anybody is likely to stage a similar protest in Poland, where US troops are seen as a good thing.
Be that as it may, the serious point is to what extent NATO countries have the will to stand up to Putin’s antics. Constructive dialogue on matters of common concern – notably Syria – is clearly the way ahead but these must be conducted on the principle of speaking softly and not only carrying a big stick, but making it clear that the stick will be used. This is where Putin and others who bear us ill will are not entirely convinced.
At least Poland leaves nobody in any doubt where it stands. Of course Poland cannot do it alone and, alas, fruitful cooperation with others is not the current government’s strong suit.