Four score years ago Poland and Ukraine were repeatedly ground under the boots of Germans, then Russians, then repeat. Few of the participants are still alive but the dark memories of the conflicts still affect relations between these countries.
The present war between Russian and Ukraine cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the past.
Mike Krupa and Larry Johnson Chat About Poland and Ukraine
Mike Krupa is an American of Polish heritage living in Poland. He did a great interview with Doug MacGregor last week and I was honored that he thought me worthy of a similar virtual sit down and chin wag. The video is linked below.
One of the points we discussed is the curious and, at times, bizarre behavior of Poland with respect to Ukraine, Russia and Germany. Poland, in my view, is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a consequence of what happened to the country and its people in World War II. The key Polish leaders and many of its people are unable to forgive, forget and move on. Why do I say that?
Poland, for example, continues to press Germany to pay reparations.
Poland is demanding Germany pay $1.3 trillion in reparations for atrocities committed during the Nazi occupation of the country.
Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau sent an official note to Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Monday requesting the payment. Last month, Poland’s ruling nationalist party declared Germany owed their eastern neighbor approximately $1.26 trillion.
The Germans reply, at least in private, is Keineswegs, verdammt noch mal (i.e., NO WAY IN HELL!) The official German position is very legal and very firm:
Germany claims all compensation to nations on the eastern front was paid in the immediate years after the war. While under rule by the Soviet Union in 1953, Poland’s leaders signed a deal with Germany that relinquished all claims of reparations from the war. . . .
After the war, Poland was given 40,000 square miles of Eastern Germany, according to the Wall Street Journal. Moreover, approximately 10 million ethnic Germans were forced to relocate by Polish authorities.
This sort of shatters the notion that the NATO alliance is solid. Raises a question about whether Germany would come to Poland’s aid in the event that Russia bombed Ukrainian training bases in Poland.
The Poles also are still very pissed at the Russians, blaming them for what the Soviet Union did. A particularly festering wound is the murder of more than 20,000 Polish officers, academics and political leaders in the Katyn Forest. NKVD Chief Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was the guy who recommended the slaughter:
On 5 March 1940, Lavrentiy Beria gave Molotov, along with Anastas Mikoyan, Kliment Voroshilov and Stalin, a note proposing the execution of 25,700 Polish anti-Soviet officers in what has become known as the Katyn massacre.
The Poles also still fume over the Soviet Union decision to let the Nazis crush the Polish uprising in 1944 rather than send their forces to the rescue. The Soviets wanted a buffer state that they controlled and made sure that they installed a Polish government compatible with the Soviet Union. It does not matter that the current Russian leadership had nothing to do with the Soviet policies. In fact, it is Putin’s Russia who finally apologized for the heinous crime in Katyn:
In a symbolic admission of guilt, Russia’s parliament has declared that Joseph Stalin ordered his secret police to execute 22,000 Polish army officers and civilians in 1940, in one of the greatest mass murders of the 20th century.
Today’s acknowledgment of Stalin’s personal culpability over the Katyn massacre comes amid a cautious thaw between Moscow and Warsaw, whose recent relations have been thorny at best. It was also seen as a sign that Russia may finally be ready for muted self-scrutiny over its totalitarian past.
Mikhail Gorbachev admitted in 1990 that the NKVD was to blame for the massacre, after a half-century of the Soviets blaming it on Nazi troops. However, there has never been a formal statement which implicates the Soviet leadership in such explicit terms.
Officials in Warsaw greeted the declaration positively. “It is a good step, an important sign,” Poland’s speaker of parliament, Grzegorz Schetyna, told reporters. It would ensure a “better atmosphere” for Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Warsaw next week, he added.
The real curiosity is why Poland embraces a regime in Ukraine that celebrates Stepan Bandera as a national hero, when it was the Bandera crew that massacred more Poles than the Soviets did at Katyn:
Between 1943 and 1945, Ukrainian nationalists attacked 99 Polish towns and villages in Wolyn, a Nazi-occupied region of Poland and is now part of Ukraine, and massacred thousands of Poles. It is estimated that around 100,000 Poles died at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists.
And here we are; Poland is in bed with modern day Ukrainian Nazis whose grandfathers murdered 100,000 Poles. Poland apparently has opted for amnesia when it comes to supporting the Zelensky regime in Ukraine.
We have a front row seat to history. In the coming weeks, Poland is likely to be inundated with a flood of Ukrainian refugees. I suspect that Polish enthusiasm for the war in Ukraine will take a hit. The critical question — will Poland’s resolve to back the war in Ukraine remain unchanged?