With the Russian invasion, the spotlight is on Poland’s role in European politics
- As the Russian President’s invasion of Ukraine turns into a “total war” between Russia and the West, Poland has emerged as the new geopolitical node of Europe.
- The US President delivered a major speech in Poland’s capital, not only condemning Putin’s aggression but also calling for his ouster from the Kremlin.
- The Kremlin was quick to remind that the US president does not decide who rules Russia. It also sent even a more powerful message by bombing Lviv, the western city of Ukraine close to the Polish border.
- Most of those seeking a decisive confrontation with Russia are in the belt of European states running down the spine of Central Europe from the north to the south. They also form the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Rising Central Europe
- The Central Europeans are now finding their voice.
- The Russian war on Ukraine has now given the central European states an unprecedented political role in shaping the region’s future.
- They no longer accept a secondary status to the traditionally dominant West European powers in the regional hierarchy.
- Nor are they willing to accept Russia’s claim for a veto over their national security orientation.
- They have long objected to Germany’s deep commercial and deep energy ties to Russia, as empowering Putin and giving him strategic leverage over Europe.
- They are egging on NATO to raise military support for Ukraine and calling on the US and EU to expand the scope of economic and other sanctions on Russia.
- If Germany was at the epicentre of the Cold War divide in Europe, it is Poland that occupies the hot seat today.
- Unlike a divided Germany that did not have full sovereignty and was troubled by its status as the fulcrum of the Cold War, Poland has risen to the occasion.
- Poland has already taken more than two million refugees from Ukraine in the last month. With a long and shared history with the people of Ukraine, the Poles have opened their homes and hearts to the Ukrainians.
- Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Poles and Central Europeans have been enthusiastic supporters of a stronger role for the US and NATO in Europe.
- They have had little faith in the visions for European “strategic autonomy” from Washington; they had no confidence in the will and capability of Western Europe in standing up to the Russian challenge.
- Russia’s war in Ukraine is also bound to propel Poland to the front ranks of European powers.
- Warsaw’s impressive economic performance in the last three decades and its leadership in shaping the sub-regional institutions in Central Europe have steadily elevated the geopolitical salience of Poland.
- Central Europe has been a blind spot in India’s worldview.
- The east-west framework that defined India’s European policies had little room for “Mittle Europa” or Middle Europe that straddled this divide and defied the Cold War certitudes.
- There have been efforts in the last couple of years in Delhi to end the neglect of Central Europe.
- As the “New Europe” regains its political agency, Delhi needs a better appreciation of the persistent political cleavages in the heart of the continent.
- These contradictions will not only shape the outcomes of the war in Ukraine but also the long-term evolution of European geopolitics.