Donald Trump and the Rise of the Intermarium

“Putin’s purposes are clear to all with eyes to see: to divide the EU, disrupt the Trans-Atlantic Alliance most strongly represented by NATO, and so again create Muscovite hegemony and despotism over Central Europe and if possible, over all Europe.”

—Richard Drozdowski

As the European Union approaches its final days, as political resolve and soft power in Berlin, Paris and Brussels wane following Britain’s exit from the federal body, and as plans to form a European military center around a final pitiful drive towards a pan-continental empire accelerate out of opposition to President Trump, the ambitions of the Kremlin and, in particular Vladimir Putin, have not waned in spite of a massive economic collapse following sanctions over the illegal annexation of Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. With accelerating numbers of Muslim migrants from war-ravaged regions of the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring arriving in Western Europe and Canada, the seeming ‘defeat’ of ISIS that appeared all too easy while the organization goes underground to attack soft targets internationally all appears to be a ruse. Europe and Canada are on the brink of total collapse, governed by politicians too concerned with winning elections by expanding the welfare state to hostile immigrants seeking their destruction, and to replace their white majorities within a matter of decades. Britain may yet survive, but only if BREXIT negotiations implode, resulting in ‘a hard exit’ from the EU. Otherwise, Britain too will go the way of the rest of Western Europe and Canada.

Yet one last hope remains for Europe’s salvation. East of Germany and west of Russia lie portions of the continent that historically fall under the influence of the stronger of the two flanking the region. “The Intermarium,” writes foreign policy expert George Friedman, “is a concept – really, an eventuality… I predicted it would rise after Russia inevitably re-emerged as a major regional power. Which makes sense, considering it would comprise the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe: the Baltic states, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and possibly Bulgaria.” Primarily designed to contain any potential Russian shift westward, it is a policy the Trump administration has apparently embraced while the brass over the dying European Union, pledging as have Germany’s Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz to form a “United States of Europe” and a European Army, are no doubt apoplectic.

The representatives of the nobility from every voivodship of Poland-Lithuania with their local clothes and emblems. Polish (left) and Lithuanian (right) flags crown the central tent.

The origins of the Intermarium and its geopolitical implication means traveling back to 1569, where the Union of Lublin (1569) forged a single confederation comprising of Poland and Lithuania. For Lithuania, this union secured their eastern frontier from the rising Russian bear; whereas the small, but more modern Polish kingdom sought new lands, which included Ukraine, that Lithuania willingly agreed to.

The Union of Lublin
The Union of Lublin as it was envisioned by 19th-century romantic Polish painter Jan Matejko.

Immediately following unification, Poland-Lithuania conquered Livonia and, in the process, German-ruled duchies of Courland and Prussia — the latter of which was a newly Protestant successor of the former Teutonic Order — became Polish-Lithuanian fiefs. But this expansion would not last. In what is known as “The Deluge, Poland-Lithuania was invaded and, for the first time, partitioned by Russia and Sweden between 1655 and 1660. Vilnius (in Lithuania) was burned to the ground by Russian Cossacks as part of their campaign of terror through rape and murder. Though the first sack of the region since the Teutonic incursions, Poland-Lithuania would never return as a great continental power again in spite of regaining independence due to internal strife and political instability.

After the extinction of Jagiellonian Dynasty (1572), the monarchy became elective. Each new monarch there was expected to cede more of its rights and privileges to the nobility through a system, uniquely labeled “noble democracy”, that concentrated most legal rights among the approximately 10 percent of noble men who participated in government. By the late 17th Century, the nobility enjoyed the power of “liberum veto”, where any noble could stop any political decision found to be disagreeable. Effectively paralyzing the country due to so many nobles vetoing royal policies, civil war between different noble families such as Radvila and Sapiega made Poland-Lithuania ripe for another invasion by 1700 with the Great Northern War. In 1772 the three nearby great powers (Austria, Prussia, and Russia) conspired to partition the country. Final attempts to salvage this dying nation such as the adoption of a new constitution (the second one in world history), abolishing the liberum veto and the uprising by Tadeusz Kosciuszko against Russia’s czarina Catherine the Great, were too little and too late. The territory once known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, captured by Russia and Prussia, ceased to exist following the third partition in 1795..

Poland Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at the height of its territorial expanse (1616-1657), superimposed onto modern European state boundaries. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.
The Holy Alliance
Lithograph of the Holy Alliance’, concluded by Tsar Alexander I, Emperor Franz I and Friedrich Wilhelm III on 26 September 1815.

Twenty years later, the Holy Alliance of European sovereigns was founded in Paris after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo on Sept. 26, 1815 by Alexander I of Russia, Francis II of Austria and Frederick William III of Prussia while negotiating the Second Peace of Paris to allegedly promote the influence of Christian principles in the affairs of nations. Inspired by Alexander and even perhaps under the influence of the visionary Barbara Juliane von Krüdener, all European rulers eventually signed except the Prince Regent of Britain (the eventual George IV), the Ottoman sultan and Pope Pius VII. Its importance was not great, though the Left and later historians believed it a major force for repression under conservatism in central and eastern Europe, while both the leading diplomats of the post-Napoleonic era, Austrian prince Klemens von Metternich and Viscount Castlereagh of England, viewed the Holy Alliance as an insignificant ephemeral association.

Russia’s victory over Sweden’s Baltic Empire in the Great Northern War (1700–1721) at Poltava inside modern-day Ukraine was key to Peter the Great’s defeat of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Analogous to Prussia’s 1866 victories over Austria-Hungary at Königgrätz in 1866 and France at Sedan in 1870, Russia’s emergence as the preeminent imperial power in the East reshaped the balance of power throughout the continent and, consequently, caused all hell to break loose. The erosion of Ottoman hegemony over the Balkans, primarily as a result of multiple war defeats to Russia was a pivotal period in history given its support from Britain, France and later, the United States. After all, Russia was effectively knocked out of the war by Germany with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. And it was Russia’s defeat and the rise of communism in the Soviet Union that gave birth to the idea for the modern concept of the Intermarium by the Polish statesman and diplomat, Józef Piłsudski.

1935 Map of Intermarium
Map of the Intermarium as proposed in 1935.

Born to poor aristocrats of Lithuanian descent in the Russian-controlled region of Poland, Piłsudski, an ethnic Pole, attended secondary school in Vilnius, and later enrolled in 1885 in a medical school at Kharkov in Ukraine. Upon his school authorities becoming aware of his seething hatred for the ruling Russian Empire, Piłsudski was suspended in 1886. Upon his return to Vilnius and becoming acquainted with local political radicals,  Piłsudski began reading socialist literature, including those by Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin. Though he was not involved in the plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, the authorities used this as a pretense to sentence him to five years in exile to Siberia on false charges. In 1908, many years later after his release and subsequent dynamic anti-Russian activism, Piłsudski, convinced that the Russian Empire would eventually collapse, began organizing the nucleus of a Polish Army, which he named the Union of Military Action. In 1914 Piłsudski planned to side with Germany and Austria-Hungary in driving out the Russians from Poland and later turn against Berlin. By 1916, Germany and Austria-Hungary recognized Poland’s independence in order to mobilize the Poles more effectively against Russia, thereby permitting Germany and Austria-Hungary to transfer their troops to the western front. But Germany proved to be an unreliable partner.

While Piłsudski accepted the idea of a Polish army aligning with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Russia, he insisted this army had to be recognized as the army of a Polish state. It was here where Germany rejected Piłsudski’s demand, insisting instead that Polish troops take an oath of fidelity. Refusing to comply with this condition, Piłsudski was imprisoned by the Germans. Around this time, the Russian Revolution broke out. The same Russian Empire that had occupied Poland for generations has sued for peace with Germany.

After Germany’s defeat in the West in 1918, Piłsudski was released from prison. Traveling to Warsaw as a national hero. he was quickly named leader of the new Polish state and commander of the army. But a new threat rose from the newly-formed Soviet Union, whose Red Army, poised to march into the recently-defeated Germany to spread the revolution, prepared to invade. In response, Piłsudski went on the offensive, capturing former Polish territory, convinced that a confederation of Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians could be created as a buffer zone between future German and Soviet aggressors. In 1920, the Red Army invaded Poland, reaching the gates of Warsaw. Fighting a defense war, Piłsudski forced the Red Army to retreat back into Soviet territory. After declaring victory, the Poles adopted a constitution and held free elections, though after an assassination nearly destroyed the new nation, another government was formed, with Piłsudski tabbed as the chief of staff of the army. In 1923, Piłsudski briefly retired from politics only to return after factionalism threatened the new nation’s survival. Raising an army to march on Warsaw, Piłsudski, in restoring order, effectively became a dictator as leader of the Sanacja nationalist movement stressing national unity under a strong executive, with restricted civil rights and a stable economy while strengthening the Polish presence in the outlying territories through forced Polonization, restricted national development and artificial divisions in modern Ukraine. These ethnic cleansing policies ultimately provided the impetus for Adolf Hitler to justify the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

The last decade of Piłsudski the dictator found Poland imperiled by Hitler’s rise in neighboring Germany. In response, Piłsudski sent an emissary to Paris to discuss a joint French-Polish war effort to stop the illegal rearming of the Rhineland. With France spurning the proposal, Piłsudski accepted this fait accompli that he was powerless to stop Hitler. In 1934, Hitler and Piłsudski agreed to a ten-year German-Polish non-aggression pact. To make sure the Soviet Union did not see this as a threat of an invasion, Piłsudski deployed another emissary to Moscow to arrange a similar long term agreement. When Hitler later sought an alliance with Piłsudski against the Soviet Union, Piłsudski, in reading the writing on the wall, refused.

In 1935, Piłsudski died. Four years later, Poland fell to German and Soviet invaders . But with the rise of Lech Wałęsa and Solidarity in 1980 protesting Soviet domination of occupied Poland, Polish nationalism provided the necessary catalyst for the eventual fall of communism by 1989. For Intermarium to succeed, Poland — which borders both Germany and the former Soviet Union — must rise to lead the Visegrád Group and the Three Seas Initiative in order to undermine both the dying German-dominated EU and renewed ambitions of the economically ailing Russian bordering it. With backing from the U.S., Poland stands to not just become a major geopolitical actor by bridging East and West as leader of the Intermarium, but in greatly decreasing the odds of another catastrophic continental war and securing Western Civilization in the wake of the hijra by migrants seeking to Islamify Europe.









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