Poland’s Actions Are a Threat to NATO

Carter Smith, Staff Writer

On March 12, 1999, just 10 years after gaining independence from the USSR, Poland signed the Washington Treaty, becoming one of the first three former Warsaw Pact nations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), alongside Hungary and The Czech Republic.

This entry provided NATO with a valuable geostrategic advantage, bringing western power much closer to Russia’s doorstep. However, what was once NATO’s most promising young member, could now be the very thing threatening to derail the alliance’s response to Russian aggression.

Poland has seen its fair share of Russian troops in its territory. In 1918, the USSR unsuccessfully attempted to invade after Poland gained independence, while successfully invading its eastern half in 1939.

When the Soviets came marching through Poland on their way to steamroll Nazi Germany, the Polish thought they’d been liberated. Instead, they faced first a direct, then political occupation until 1989, when the Soviets finally let Warsaw Pact nations choose their own future.

Therefore, Russian expansion in Eastern Europe is a personal matter to them.

Poland has been concerned with Russian re-armament and expansion for years, with then-president Lech Kaczyński commenting, “Today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after tomorrow—the Baltic States and later, perhaps, time will come for my country, Poland,” during Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Now, the Russian army is deep into Ukraine, with Belarus–Russia’s buffer with Poland– growing increasingly closer to doing the same. Needless to say, Poland is seeing flashbacks, and it’s eager to join the fight.

But, the nation’s desire to provide direct military aid is not flying with the more western NATO powers, particularly the United States.

According to Zbigniew Rau, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Polish Government is “ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America.

At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities.”

The MIGs, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly, would then be flown to Ukraine to bolster its air force.

The U.S. rejected the proposal, fearing that planes departing from a NATO airbase bound for Ukraine could be considered by Russia as an act of war, drawing NATO directly into the conflict, which the alliance expressly wishes to avoid.

Furthermore, according to The National, on Wednesday, March 16, Poland’s deputy prime minister, Jarosław Kaczyński, “call[ed] for a NATO mission to provide humanitarian aid that would be ‘able to defend itself’ and ‘protected by appropriate forces, armed forces.’”

The proposal for the first deployment of NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine was swiftly rejected, in fear of immediately escalating the conflict.

NATO’s overarching strategy, affirmed during last week’s summit, for the Ukrainian crisis is simple: Do everything possible to provide aid to Ukraine and economically weaken Russia without bringing NATO into a direct military conflict.

The alliance has been deploying additional military bulk to its Eastern European members and has been directly donating military and humanitarian equipment and aid to keep Ukrainians in the fight, all the while leveling salvos of sanctions at Russia, Vladimir Putin, his oligarchs and other politicians.

Any more would mean direct military involvement, which would then begin World War III, as Russia has made abundantly clear.

Poland’s proposal did not fall on deaf ears. Russian State Duma General Vladimir Shamanov openly threatened Poland if peacekeepers were sent in.

According to Daily Mail, he claimed that the Poles would face the “the full scheme,” including hypersonic missile bombing of the capital of Warsaw.

Thus, while Poland’s intentions are justified and even noble, cooler heads must prevail. Putin has threatened to expand the invasion to adjacent NATO nations or press the big, red, nuclear button if the alliance makes one wrong move, such as welcoming Ukraine to NATO and/or the EU entering Ukrainian airspace or direct military involvement.

From the eyes of the outside world, Putin appears reckless enough to sideline his own oligarchs and citizens to bring Ukraine back into his fold, so there is no telling what he might do to pursue his goal.

Ultimately, Poland’s proposals threaten NATO’s overall plan of de-escalation and could invigorate Russia into expanding the war beyond Ukraine before NATO is ready. And with multiple nuclear-armed powers in the mix, the result would be undeniably catastrophic.