I was intrigued to read an article over at Al Fin – Next Level titled “Emerging Polish-Ukrainian Commonwealth“. In it, the author notes:
Millions of Ukrainian citizens fled the Russian invasion of February 2022, and were welcomed into Poland with open arms. The same thing is happening with many Ukrainian businesses, which are seeking a safer base of production for doing business with new European clients.
Meanwhile back in Ukraine, more than 50 nations have committed to bolstering Ukrainian defenses against the invasion of brutal foreign forces from the east. One of those countries is the United States, which is sending yet more HIMARS advanced artillery rockets to Ukraine. This medium range rocket system has already proven itself by demolishing much of Russia’s logistical stockpiles for the war.
Ukraine was known as the weapons brain trust of the former USSR. When Ukraine voted overwhelmingly to leave the Soviet Union, much of the best of Soviet weapons design, development, and manufacturing was split off from Russia and utilized by many foreign nations — including China — as a means of obtaining top level Russian weapons designs.
The Russian defense industry is still hurting from the loss of Ukrainian defense engineering and manufacturing from more than 30 years ago. This remains particularly true in the production of high quality turbine engines for ships, planes, and helicopters, where Russia still lags. This is probably due to Russia’s failure in producing new generations of qualified engineers capable of providing precision engineering and precision manufacturing services to the massive nation that is bleeding manpower at an alarming speed.
As Ukrainian weapons expertise relocates to Poland, we will see an interesting amalgam of Polish energy and enterprise with Ukrainian technical expertise.
. . .
The emergence of a Polish-Ukrainian commonwealth along with strong allies such as the Scandinavian and Baltic nations, will reverberate through Europe’s future.
There’s more at the link.
That started me thinking. The ties between Poland and Ukraine stretch back to before the Second World War, and are deeply ethnic and cultural in western Ukraine in particular – because it used to be part of Poland. After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the Soviet Union did likewise, in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets annexed several eastern provinces of Poland and distributed them among the neighboring Soviet states. At the end of World War II, those provinces were not returned to Poland, but retained by the Soviets. In exchange for them, parts of eastern Germany, including most of Prussia, were given to Poland.
Some of the citizens of those eastern Polish provinces made their way back to Poland in 1939, but most did not. With the Germans advancing from the west, to flee the Soviet invasion from the east would have meant jumping out of the frying-pan only to land in the fire, so to speak. The Soviets “cleaned house” of any “unreliable” Polish elements with a bloodthirsty vengeance, including the massacre of over 20,000 Polish military, intellectual and religious leaders and potential leaders in the Katyn Massacre of 1940. That continued after the war, with anything that even looked like a resurgence of Polish nationalism crushed at once, mercilessly. Nevertheless, many of the residents of western Ukraine, western Belarus and other areas nearby remain ethnically Polish. That’s one reason why Poland has been so sympathetic to Ukraine during the current hostilities, including allowing millions of Ukrainians to take refuge in its territory.
If Russia annexes (i.e. steals) large parts of eastern Ukraine, that would leave a “rump” of central and western Ukraine with minimal or no access to the Black Sea. A significant proportion of those living there would be ethnically Polish, and/or have sympathies with Poland. That might indeed lead to closer ties between those nations – not necessarily a formal alliance or unification, but a “commonwealth” type of arrangement that would be of significant economic benefit to both sides.
Poland would gain the technical expertise of Ukrainian engineers and designers (not insignificant, given that Poland is trying to assemble and/or manufacture under license its own helicopters, jet aircraft, tanks, etc.), as well as combat-experienced military knowledge. It would also gain access to significant agricultural production, which in a time of famine has attractions all its own.
In return, Ukraine (or the rump thereof) would gain the recognition and protection of a state that has fought the Soviet Union/Russia multiple times in recent centuries, and has no illusions about its rapacity and ruthlessness. What’s more, Poland is a member of NATO – precisely what some elements in Ukraine wanted, but now look unlikely to achieve. If the “commonwealth” can be placed on a formal, legal footing, that might include Polish bases in Ukraine: and that would put a NATO presence right on the borders of the new, expansionist Russian “empire” – precisely what Russia went to war with Ukraine to prevent.
Might that provoke further, wider conflict? Yes, it might . . . but Poland might not find an open clash with Russia to be terribly frightening. It has several historical bones to pick with that nation, and isn’t shy about expressing them. It’s also rather well armed for its size, and is rapidly modernizing and Westernizing the armed forces it inherited from its Communist rulers a few decades ago. Ukraine would provide it with more recent combat experience, as well as a thorough understanding of what modern technology can do in trained hands.
This will bear watching.