7 July 2022, Thursday, 4:26
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Ex-Defence Minister of Poland: It’s Crucial for Us to Have Belarus Free

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Ex-Defence Minister of Poland: It’s Crucial for Us to Have Belarus Free
Romuald Szeremetiew
Photo: charter97.org

Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles and Balts have historical chance again.

Former Polish Minister of Defense, a member of the Sejm of the third convocation, Professor of the Academy of National Defense Romuald Szeremetiew in an interview with Charter97.org shared his views on the situation on the war front in Ukraine, as well as expressed the view that the alliance of Central and Eastern European countries would guarantee security in the region:

- The Ukrainian army is facing a very difficult task because the Russians have an advantage when it comes to the amount of equipment and capacity. Fortunately, Russia is not very good at it, but Ukraine is in a worse position because it is a smaller country and has a smaller army.

The resistance that Ukraine offers will depend on the West supplying necessary armaments. President Zelensky has long noted that defensive weapons alone (light anti-tank and anti-aircraft rocket launchers) are not enough - heavy equipment is needed: tanks, artillery and aircraft.

Otherwise, it will be difficult for the Ukrainians to dislodge the Russian army from Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian army must have offensive capabilities, not just defensive ones. The Ukrainians are doing quite well but that does not solve the problem if we are talking about winning the war.

- If the war lasts for many months, will the West have enough political will to keep the unity and momentum to support the Ukrainian army?

- I think Poland will have that will for sure. I think the US will have it as well. The American president's statements are quite unambiguous, and the military assistance that the US is rendering to the Ukrainian army is noticeable. Undoubtedly, this anti-Putin coalition includes the UK. Thus, these three countries (Poland, UK, USA), I think, are enough to make the support for Ukraine sufficient. We still have to persuade some European countries, NATO countries. The President of Poland, the Prime Minister, Ministers do everything for Ukraine to receive this aid.

I am optimistic about the future, as the various sanctions should have a negative impact on Russia's economy and capabilities. Not everything is going to work out but sanctions are being imposed. If there are reports that the Russians have to stop producing tanks, for example, because they do not have the necessary components. So far, they receive components from the West, mainly from Germany and France. It means that the farther it goes the worse and more difficult it will be for Russia. The point is how long Russia will stand in this situation because the image Russian propaganda is spreading about itself being at war with the whole West is not only stupid but also suicidal.

- After the failure of the blitzkrieg, what plans does Putin have in Ukraine?

- It is unknown what happens to Putin and what is in his head. I wrote about why Russia had a failure in the beginning, even though all the so-called experts said Ukraine had no chance. I believe Putin did not anticipate that the Ukrainians would resist so effectively. He thought it would be enough to put up a show of force (send tanks to different parts of Ukraine) and the Ukrainians would surrender and capitulate. Apparently, the Russians remembered 2014, when they easily seized Crimea, because the Ukrainian army did not even have orders then. It was unknown how it had to act, and Ukrainian commanders, such as the commander of the Ukrainian navy, were joining the side of the enemy (on 2 March 2014, Ukrainian Navy Commander Denis Berezovsky joined the side of the Russian occupiers).

Thus, I think the idea was to stage a large-scale show of force, showing Russia's power, and to oust the government and President Zelensky. I recall that Russians did not take President Zelensky seriously: they laughed at him as he used to be an actor and comedian.

It turned out that the president of Ukraine is a tough, courageous man and performs his duties great given the circumstances.

Putin seemed to make great strides easily. The Kremlin had concerns only about Western reaction. Even President Biden said that Russian aggression would meet a strong response, but if it was a minor attack, some modus vivendi might be found.

I think German and French politicians would like to find this modus vivendi: to force Ukraine to make concessions so that Putin could save face by taking some part of Ukraine's territory. But Washington D.C., London and Warsaw are on Kyiv's side (this is crucial in terms of support - we share a border, i.e. we are able to provide various types of humanitarian and military aid to this country from our territory). All this does not contribute to the Kremlin's policy.

The point is how long Russians can endure this type of policy that Putin pursues.

- In 1920, Poland under Józef Piłsudski defeated and expelled the Russian invaders, and preserved the country's independence. Will Ukrainians be able to make their remake of Miracle on the Vistula in 100 years?

- I sincerely wish Ukrainians to succeed. I believe they will win this war against Russian invaders. I think they will really keep their independence and will be like other nations in Europe. We miss Belarusians here.

- In one of your interviews, you said it was necessary to demilitarize the Kaliningrad region, the Russian Federation. How do you imagine it?

- If Sweden and Finland join NATO (they have applied for this), the Baltic Sea will become a kind of an internal sea of the Alliance. And then we will see if a time bomb like Kaliningrad can exist in this region with NATO countries. If there is a tough situation in Russia and the end of Putin's power, the Russians may want to find a way out of that situation. Europe then may seek the demilitarisation of Kaliningrad.

Let it be a territory whose inhabitants can travel around Europe and work there. Let it develop, let the port function as a point of trade (it should be included in the general system if it is about communication routes), but it should not be a bomb that can explode at any moment.

As part of this demilitarization, I also see the need to restore the former name: Konigsberg. Kalinin was the criminal who signed the decision to kill the Polish officers. Europe has no other precedent when a real war criminal was the patron of a big European city. For the Poles and our neighbours, Belarusians and Ukrainians, the crimes committed by Stalin in the USSR cannot be tolerated.

- Will Finland and Sweden join NATO? After all, Turkey is against their membership in the Alliance.

- They will join. I am familiar with Turks and their behaviour. They always protest and say no to get something in return at those NATO meetings with tough issues. And finally Turkey accepts the point.

The Americans may restore them right to buy super modern F-35 jets. That right was revoked by the US after Turkey bought S-300 anti-aircraft systems from the Russians, and the Americans were a bit upset about it.

But things change. Turkey also realises that it benefits from NATO. When it comes to the Black Sea basin, Turkey and Russia's interests are at odds. Erdogan had a reason to visit Kyiv. He stated Turkey stood for the integrity of Ukraine.

I believe Sweden and Finland will be in NATO. In terms of security of our European region, this is of paramount and colossal importance.

- How should the West react to the actions of the Lukashenka regime, which is a co-aggressor in the war in Ukraine?

- It is necessary to treat him in the same way as to Putin. There is no other way.

Poland increasingly supports the Belarusians and their aspirations to be a sovereign, independent state, to be among the states of free Europe as an equal partner.

It is crucial for us to make it happen. We will then have good neighbours and be able to develop the cooperation we used to have in the past. Now we see that Poles, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Ukrainians again have a historic chance to join forces in a union that guarantees security for all of us. We will not need to fear that Russia may invade again.

- Polish President Andrzej Duda has announced in Kyiv his readiness to conclude a new amity treaty with Ukraine. Does this sound like the start of Intermarium?

- I think yes. It is a gradual vision of the intention to build up the Intermarium as a geopolitical entity with influence on the developments in Europe. It will guarantee us security, preserving our sovereignty, our nations, our differences. Meanwhile, there must be common interests for all of Europe.

The book Bloodlands by American history expert Timothy Snyder shows the territories where Hitler and Stalin murdered people in the twentieth century. If one looks at that map, it turns out this is the map of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one-to-one. Stalin and Hitler were killing the people of the Rzeczpospolita, the state entity that we (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians) once managed to build, which greatly annoyed Moscow and, as it later turned out, the Germans. It is now clearly visible exactly how Germany is responding to calls for help for Ukraine.

Our cooperation (with Central and Eastern Europe) is a necessity if we want to keep our economic development, our living standards and our common security. In my opinion, learning from past experiences, we can do it better and faster. The framework that serves as a ground for the unity between Poland and Ukraine will contribute to this purpose.