If Poland’s president gets his way, the Pentagon might soon start building Fort Trump on Polish soil. Permanently posting thousands of American troops in Poland, however, isn’t the best way to convince NATO allies that America will defend them from Russian aggression.
If Italy and Poland developed a strategic consensus and acted accordingly, it would be a revolution for European defense.
Toward the end of 2015, a few defense experts raised their eyebrows at a Credit Suisse report on the future of globalization. This wide-ranging assessment contained a short analysis of global military power, ranking the top 20 countries in the world. Weighing six elements of conventional warfare, the Credit Suisse analysts considered Poland a stronger military power than Germany, and Italy came ahead of the United Kingdom.
The European Union has threatened to sanction Poland unless it drops legal reforms that undermine the independence of its judiciary. The Polish legislation mirrors earlier changes in Hungary, leading many analysts to draw parallels between the broader challenges to liberal democracy by the two regimes.
There are certainly similarities between the goals and rhetoric of Fidesz, the ruling party in Hungary since 2010, and PiS (Law and Justice), in power in Poland since 2015. Both appear to be following the same template: First, target the highest courts and the judiciary, then restrict the independence of the media and civil society, and finally transform the constitutional framework and electoral laws in ways that enshrine their hold on power. Viktor Orban of Fidesz and Jaroslaw Kaczynski of PiS share the same goals, have had lengthy meetings together, and have repeatedlyvowed to protect each other from potential EU sanctions.
Where next for Poland? That is the big question following the swearing in of Andrzej Duda for a five-year term as the new president.
The 43-year-old lawyer’s shock victory in May’s presidential election has shaken up Polish politics. It means that for the first time since 2010, Poland’s president is from a different party to the prime minister. Duda represents the right-wing Law and Justice party, while prime minister Ewa Kopacz is from the centrist Civic Platform.
Duda’s victory prompted speculation about whether there would be a significant shift in Polish international relations. Up to a point, is the short answer. Real executive power lies with the prime minister, but the Polish president is not simply a ceremonial figure. According to the constitution, the president has informal oversight and a coordinating role over foreign policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin got the world’s attention on May 10 when, during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he unapologetically defended the infamous 1939 nonaggression pact between Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union.
The so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — named after the two foreign ministers who signed it in the late-night hours of August 23, 1939 — was formally a nonaggression pact. But it also encompassed a secret protocol under which the two dictatorships agreed to carve up Eastern Europe.