Poland is one of the most important power balancers in Europe. Eurosceptics often criticise German’s political and economic influence over the EU and Poland appears a role model for them occasionally. It also attracts nationalists and conservatives all over the Western world, but all of these can simply mislead in terms of foreign policy. It is true, that Poland may have a bit complicated relations with some members of the EU, but its main concern lies east – Russia.
Poland has one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. Polish GDP growth expected to be more than 4% in 2018. It has important economic ties with the US, the EU and China respectively. Beyond the economy, Poland has strong military ties with the Baltic states and the US. Rising economy and strong military can be an important momentum to the political aspirations. And it does. Poland aspires to be a leader in the Eastern and Central Europe, but the main adversary is not going to be any member of the union, but it is Russia.
Russia still struggles to accept the Post-Soviet world order and tries to reestablish influence over its neighbours including Poland. The means for this objective are mixed. Russia has a strong military presence north of Poland, in Kaliningrad Oblast, where naval and ground bases have powerful military capabilities. After Russia’s annexation the Crimea and occupation Georgia’s two territories and threatening airspace of the Baltic sea, Poland reacts. Latter not just bolsters its military but creates consistent deterrence policy against Russian threats.
Poland tries to establish the chain of allies which can challenge Russia’s regional aspirations. After 2014, it redoubled drills near the Polish-Russia border to answer Russia’s any potential aggressive action. It is clear that beyond the US, for Poland, the adjacent neighbourhood is the very valuable asset to contain Russia’s potential aggression. Three Baltic states are one of them, but Ukraine is a much bigger state with much bigger potential. Russias military front lies within Ukraine. Before Ukraine still stands Russia hardly goes beyond muscle flexing. Therefore Poland is using it’s economic and political power to help Ukraine, to avoid Russia’s actions in the deeper west. The US and the EU know that.
But beyond this realist view of Poland’s’ importance, it has much more influential political power in the region. As we mentioned above, some EU member states criticise Poland for its internal political centralisation, but in reality, it is Poland who helps to develop pro-democratic and Pro-EU moods in the Easternmost parts of Europe. The Eastern Partnership (EaP), which aims to deepen economic, travel, cultural and political ties with the Eastern European non-EU member states, initiated by Poland in co-operation with Sweden in 2009 and still has the leading positions.
Based on these circumstances, it is clear that Poland’s political objectives cross Russian one. Latter thinks that Ex-Soviet countries are still its sphere of influence, but Poland can’t agree that. It has its own political agenda and ready to sacrifice time and resources to stops Russia’s Political ambitions. It is obvious that if the NATO and the EU want to secure its borders and the adjacent neighbourhood it should contain Russia’s ambitions and accept Poland’s rising role during the process.