“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of sheep lead by a lion.” The words of Alexander the Great, and he would have known. But what about an army of wolves in sheep’s clothing, or an army of “little green men” in uniforms without insignia led, we might suppose, by a son of Mother Russia? Well one man, if not afraid, is worried about the potential dangers posed by a Ukraine type conflict and warns that Poland must be prepared.
General Stanisław Koziej, Head of the National Security Bureau, is concerned about a hybrid war, in other words the type of clandestine aggression which makes it uncertain whether or not there is a war. According to General Koziej Poland needs both to prepare for this eventuality and to convince NATO allies to ensure that the alliance is able quickly to act, rapid action being essential.
Poland’s membership of NATO should deter any open aggression, although – and this is something any aggressor would exploit ruthlessly – in the case of an unconventional hybrid war it would, in the general’s opinion, be difficult to reach a consensus within NATO on the correct response, something already seen with the Ukraine crisis. Notwithstanding the potential danger, General Koziej thinks that the threat to Poland remains relatively low, a more likely scenario being attempts to act against the Baltic States, where there is a large Russian minority, rather than against Poland.
Which is just as well, since, if a recent poll is to be believed, 49 percent of Poles believe that NATO would not respond if Poland were to be invaded, contrary to Article 5 of NATO’s founding charter which guarantees mutual security on the basis that an attack on one is an attack on all. And Poles are now more sceptical of NATO with only 44 per cent (down from 50 per cent last year) believing NATO would intervene were Poland to be invaded. If it’s any consolation, 58 per cent do think that the current geopolitical situation will not lead to war in Europe, although 39 per cent do fear armed conflict.
Be that as it may, something odd is afoot. Despite the evidence that the world is a more dangerous place, with armed conflict in Europe, NATO members, with notable exceptions which include Poland, persist in defence cuts when defence is surely the main duty of any government, since without security all else becomes impossible. The UK is the worst offender, with a 30 per cent cut in military effectiveness over the last five years and more to come. The foreign aid budget will, on current projections, soon overtake the defence budget. To cut defence spending to provide aid to folk who neither need it, nor want it, and in many cases do not bear the UK goodwill, is the height of madness and does not deter the agressor.
Perhaps, though, there is another reason. As the EU pursues the dream of ever closer integration, the idea of individual national identity becomes ever more inconvenient. Last week, a Cambridge University don warned that school text books are ‘papering over’ historical differences between European nations to promote further integration. Professor David Abulafia said that “there is a soft push to create a sense of European citizenship which is based on frankly an invented common history because the history of Europe is to a large extent the history of division, not the history of unity. When it has been the history of unity, as we’ve seen under Napoleon and Hitler or under the Soviets in Eastern Europe, it has gone disastrously wrong. It is a papering over the discordant elements in European history to create this idealised event.” Other leading historians share his view of this Orwellian re-writing of history.
Indeed, you will have noticed how the EU constantly seeks to claim the credit for peace in Europe since the Second World War while undermining NATO, the true guarantor hitherto of peace, with repeated calls for a European defence force owing its allegiance, one assumes, to the EU and not to any nation state. In this context, defence cuts which leave an individual EU member state unable to defend itself or to put down major civil unrest without calling in an EU force makes sense if, that is, you believe in an EU super state.
For Poles and others who have thrown off the Soviet yoke, these developments must be alarming, to say the least. Or, as Orwell’s Animal Farm concluded: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”