It’s impossible for anyone to have a solid understanding of current events and the historical processes that gave rise to them without learning about Poland’s inextricable role in both. The past laid the basis upon which present developments are unfolding since modern-day Ukrainian identity wouldn’t have taken shape nor would the ongoing proxy war have unfolded without Poland’s participation.
President Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson, in which he subverted both the Mainstream Media and Alt-Media Community’s expectations as explained here, devoted considerable time to Poland. Casual observers outside might have been confused by the Russian leader’s decision to talk so much about that country. Their extent of knowledge about it is limited to common facts about its history and modern-day pro-American anti-Russian geopolitical disposition but that’s about as far as it goes for most folks.
The reality is that Poland is inextricably connected with what can be described as the ‘Ukrainian Question’, which pertains to the identity of those who live on the territory of that country. President Putin knew that his audience is largely unaware of this history and that’s why he spent so much time explaining it to them. This wasn’t just because he’s fascinated with these facts, as proven by his summer 2021 magnum opus on the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians, but due to it being relevant today.
It’s precisely due to Poland having controlled a lot of what’s nowadays called Ukraine, which the Poles themselves were the first to name during the Commonwealth’s time with reference to the borderlands as President Putin reminded everyone, that it plays such a role in the current conflict. Not only do some of the policymaking elites consider it part of their erstwhile geographically broad civilization, a large part of which was built on the lands of the former Kievan Rus, but they also consider them kindred peoples.
That’s not to suggest that Ukrainians were fairly treated at the time, however, since it the result of their systematic mistreatment over the centuries and associated curtailment of their religious rights that one of their historical heroes asked the Tsar to take control of these lands in order to liberate his people. Under Catherine the Great, Russia eventually regained control of all its lost lands from the Kievan Rus era with the exception of the westernmost ones that fell under Austria’s control after the partitions.
The end of World War I and the Polish-Soviet War that arose from its aftermath saw Warsaw and Moscow partition what’s nowadays known as Ukraine between themselves, but the USSR ultimately obtained its neighbor’s half after World War II and thus finally reunited all of Kiev Rus. About that global conflict, President Putin informed Tucker that the failure of Polish diplomacy played a major role in catalyzing it, which most Poles deny but is nevertheless a compelling interpretation of events.
Between the two World Wars, the communists’ ideology inspired them to accelerate the creation of a separate Ukrainian identity built upon a combination of past indigenous efforts as well as Polish and Austrian ones, which culminated in the creation of its own Soviet Republic. The borders were adjusted twice after World War II and then were inherited after the USSR’s dissolution, thus making them completely artificial, though that doesn’t mean that the Ukrainian identity itself doesn’t veritably exist.
The problem is that its post-communist nationalism was formed by the Western-encouraged nostalgia that some elites and members of civil society have of the Nazi-era past when Ukrainians who lived under the interwar Second Polish Republic collaborated with the fascists to genocide Poles, Jews, and Russians. It’s this identity that’s artificially manufactured and hateful to the core, which Russia rightly regards as abominable and a threat to its security interests, ergo the denazification goal of the special operation.
Circling back to Poland, its historical ties with the people of what’s nowadays the country of Ukraine pushed it to play a leading role in NATO’s proxy war on Russia through that former Soviet Republic, which took the form of facilitating military aid (not to mention dispatching its own) and sending mercenaries. President Putin even told Tucker that Poles comprise the largest number of foreign fighters in that country followed by Americans and then Georgians.
He didn’t say so directly, but the subtext that’s clearly discernable in the Russian leader’s review of Polish-Ukrainian relations suggests that Warsaw is driven by its own interwar nostalgia for its lost eastern regions (“Kresy”), hence why it might be playing this role in order to (re)build a sphere of influence. At the same time, however, President Putin also noted how “Poland pecks from the German hand” since “Germany feeds Poland to a certain extent” via EU funds that Berlin contributes to more than others.
Even so, the relationship between those two is a curious one since he made this remark in the context of talking about how Poland shut off Russian gas transit via its territory to Germany, thus prompting him to question why Berlin doesn’t hold these funds as a Damocles’ sword over Warsaw’s end in order to force a resumption of imports. He also criticized Poland for hyping up an imaginary Russian threat and explicitly said that Russia will only attack Poland if it’s attacked first.
In the grand scheme of things, Poland is the country that few outside of Russia ever discuss when it comes to the ‘Ukrainian Question’, both in terms of that former Soviet Republic’s identity as well as the ongoing NATO-Russian proxy war that’s being fought within its pre-2014 borders. Warsaw’s nostalgia for its interwar control over what’s nowadays’ Western Ukraine as well as its earlier control over a swath of that modern country during the Commonwealth era is why it plays a leading role in this conflict.
Prior to the special operation, the Polish intelligentsia were the first external actors to plant the seeds of Ukrainian identity into its people’s minds, which they did as a means of legitimizing their control over the former lands of Kievan Rus whose people’s ethno-religious identity was different than their own. As President Putin explained, Warsaw’s meddling played a major part in the events that later gave rise to some of its own people’s self-proclaimed separate identity that others then exploited for their own ends.
It’s therefore impossible for anyone to have a solid understanding of current events and the historical processes that gave rise to them without learning about Poland’s inextricable role in both. The past laid the basis upon which present developments are unfolding since modern-day Ukrainian identity wouldn’t have taken shape nor would the ongoing proxy war have unfolded without Poland’s participation. These facts suggest that peace isn’t possible without Poland playing some sort of role in this process as well.