Posts Tagged poland

Geopolitical Journey, Part 2: Borderlands

Geopolitical Journey, Part 2: Borderlands is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Editor’s Note: Stratfor’s George Friedman is continuing his trip this week across the region, including the countries of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Serbia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. This report on the same region was written in 2010, as he was returning from a similar journey that explored the geopolitical imperatives of those nations. The observations and forecasts then in many ways mirror the reality today, four years later.

By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman

A borderland is a region where history is constant: Everything is in flux. The countries we are visiting on this trip (Turkey, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland) occupy the borderland between Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Roman Catholic Hapsburg Austria struggled with the Islamic Ottoman Empire for centuries, with the Ottomans extending northwest until a climactic battle in Vienna in 1683. Beginning in the 18th century, Orthodox Russia expanded from the east, through Belarus and Ukraine. For more than two centuries, the belt of countries stretching from the Baltic to the Black seas was the borderland over which three empires fought. Read the rest of this entry »

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Borderlands: First Moves in Romania

Borderlands: First Moves in Romania is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

I arrived in Bucharest, Romania, the day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be here in a few weeks. The talk in Bucharest, not only among the leadership but also among the public, is about Ukraine. Concerns are palpable, and they are not only about the Russians. They are also about NATO, the European Union, the United States and whether they will all support Romania if it resists Russia. The other side of the equation, of course, is whether Romania will do the things it must do in order to make outside support effective. Biden left Romania with a sense that the United States is in the game. But this is not a region that trusts easily. The first step was easy. The rest become harder.

If this little Cold War becomes significant, there are two European countries that matter the most: Poland and Romania. Poland, which I visit next, stands between Germany and Russia on the long, flat North European plain. Its population is about 38 million people. Romania, to the south, standing behind the Prut River and bisected by the Carpathian Mountains, has a population of about 20 million. Of the roughly 82 million people along the eastern frontier (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria), approximately 58 million live in Poland and Romania. Biden’s visit to Romania and U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Poland provide a sense of how Washington looks at the region and, for the moment at least, the world. How all of this plays out is, of course, dependent on the Russians and the course of the Ukrainian crisis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape

Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

I will be leaving this week to visit a string of countries that are now on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. A tour like that allows you to look at the details of history. But it is impossible to understand those details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I realize that what has happened in Ukraine can only be understood by considering European geopolitics since 1914 — a hundred years ago and the beginning of World War I.

In The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman wrote a superb and accurate story about how World War I began. For her it was a confluence of perception, misperception, personality and decisions. It was about the leaders, and implicit in her story was the idea that World War I was the result of miscalculation and misunderstanding. I suppose that if you focus on the details, then the war might seem unfortunate and avoidable. I take a different view: It was inevitable from the moment Germany united in 1871. When it happened and exactly how it happened was perhaps up to decision-makers. That it would happen was a geopolitical necessity. And understanding that geopolitical necessity gives us a framework for understanding what is happening in Ukraine, and what is likely to happen next. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine

From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world’s perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken.

Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia. The Russians believe that the United States was the prime mover behind regime change in Ukraine. At the very least, the Russians intend to reverse events in Ukraine. At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia’s power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery

Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn’t clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn’t have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Poland’s Strategy

Poland’s Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

Polish national strategy pivots around a single, existential issue: how to preserve its national identity and independence. Located on the oft-invaded North European Plain, Poland’s existence is heavily susceptible to the moves of major Eurasian powers. Therefore, Polish history has been erratic, with Poland moving from independence — even regional dominance — to simply disappearing from the map, surviving only in language and memory before emerging once again.

 

North European Plain

For some countries, geopolitics is a marginal issue. Win or lose, life goes on. But for Poland, geopolitics is an existential issue; losing begets national catastrophe. Therefore, Poland’s national strategy inevitably is designed with an underlying sense of fear and desperation. Nothing in Polish history would indicate that disaster is impossible. Read the rest of this entry »

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Visegrad: A New European Military Force

Visegrad: A New European Military Force is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

With the Palestinians demonstrating and the International Monetary Fund in turmoil, it would seem odd to focus this week on something called the Visegrad Group. But this is not a frivolous choice. What the Visegrad Group decided to do last week will, I think, resonate for years, long after the alleged attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn is forgotten and long before the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved. The obscurity of the decision to most people outside the region should not be allowed to obscure its importance.

The region is Europe — more precisely, the states that had been dominated by the Soviet Union. The Visegrad Group, or V4, consists of four countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — and is named after two 14th century meetings held in Visegrad Castle in present-day Hungary of leaders of the medieval kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. The group was reconstituted in 1991 in post-Cold War Europe as the Visegrad Three (at that time, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were one). The goal was to create a regional framework after the fall of Communism. This week the group took an interesting new turn.

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