(Technically, the political leaders of Poland fail…)
Casual students of World War II history will recall the guarantees by Britain and France in favor of Poland against any foreign aggression (which turned out to mean aggression by Germany, but not aggression by the Soviets). Pat Buchanan, in his wonderful book “Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World,” has described this guarantee by the British as one of the bigger blunders of diplomacy leading up to the war.
It turns out that Roosevelt may have been behind the push to make the guarantees, as relayed by Herbert Hoover in his magnum opus, “Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover's Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath.” (There are even backstories to this backstory, as Poland apparently made no friends with its neighbors during the interwar years in any case, as documented by Gerd Schultze-Rhonof in his book “1939 – The War That Had Many Fathers.”)
Clearly, political leaders in Poland have not learned from this history – the history offering a clear demonstration that a) a guarantee from western leaders is nothing more than a tool for western provocation and for western purposes, b) as a diplomatic strategy, cozying up to distant powers is not nearly as effective as making nice with neighbors, most importantly with Germany and Russia, and c) going out of one’s way to make enemies out of powerful neighbors is never a good idea.
First, some background: the backdrop is the Ukraine. NATO, a military institution without a purpose (a very dangerous entity) is talking tough, talking expansion, and talking permanent:
General Philip Breedlove, NATO's top commander in Europe, has proposed that the Polish city of Szczecin expand its existing base to help the military alliance respond faster to any threat posed by Russia. (1)
He said that NATO needs to position resources forward on its eastern flank in response to the concerns of nations close to Ukraine. (2)
“Pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces,” he said. “And how we man that in a rotational or nonpermanent basis is what we’re looking at now to propose in NATO and we will be looking at that with the (North Atlantic Council).” (2)
NATO's top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said last month NATO would have to consider permanently stationing troops in eastern Europe. (3)
Permanently stationed troops in Poland. (As an aside, I wonder if the intent is to keep the Russians out, or keep the Germans in.)
American allies (specifically Britain) seemingly want in on the action:
According to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank close to NATO, Britain and other NATO allies backing the general’s plans to place supplies — weapons, ammunition and ration packs — at a new headquarters in eastern Europe, to enable a sudden influx of thousands of NATO troops to be ready for action in the event of a crisis. (1)
Thousands of troops, supposedly as a check on Russia. Thousands (against Russia) does not equal deterrence; it equals provocation. Does this dawn on Polish leaders?