TIME TO WAKE UP
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with dr. Grzegorz Kwasniak about naivety and lack of realistic way of thinking about military safety of Poland
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – In the whole military, academic and expert career, you are an unchangeably strict critic, if we consider the state of the national safety of the Third Public Republic. Two years ago in an interview with ‘Niedziela’ you submitted a very unpopular and criticized thesis that we here, in Poland, are still sleeping and are dreaming about being safe….have we finally woken up?
DR. GRZEGORZ KWASNIAK: – I think that the nation is already waking up, but the biggest problem are leftist-liberal elites holding the authority in Poland now, which, although they see what is happening, cannot make good conclusions for various reasons or undertake efficient actions.
– In your publications, starting with the year 2005, you criticize thoughtless and careless attitude of successive governments to the issue of safety; you state that it is the chaotically growing and deepening process. From which moment can we speak about a real danger for our safety?
– I think that danger of our safety started growing from the beginning of the year 2000, and despite the accession of Poland to NATO, or maybe just for this reason, because at that time we started undergoing the lulling sense of safety resulting from the belief that allies will always protect us. So, the activity aiming at building one’s military safety is pointless. In 2009, as an employee of the National Defence Academy, I finally exposed myself to danger, by publishing an article entitled: ‘Polish army does not exist’ in ‘Rzeczpospolita’. Unfortunately, today this situation is much worse…. What I wrote then – although I was offset from worship and faith, I had to leave the army – today is completely confirmed.
– And it still looks as if nobody from the government would care about a strong army, on defence of the country?
– Truly speaking, we did not have really competent and brave national defence ministers in the Third Polish Republic, apart from Romuald Szeremietiew. Recently minister Tomasz Seimoniak with the National Safety Office are trying to do something in this sphere but with a surprisingly poor result. One can have a feeling that the loudly announced actions are not quite successful for them.
– Because the nation does not demand them…. And only after the ‘Ukrainian lesson’ the chief of the National Safety Office says about the need of awakening the defencing patriotism of Poles through supporting patriotic-military organizations, unpopular so far with the symbolic supporting of the current government.
– I still do not believe any favour towards this kind of civil initiatives from the government of the Civil Platform. As usually, there may appear at least a few apparent actions subordinated to improving the image of the very government, but I am sure - just this authority does not care about any civilian initiatives, but, on the contrary: it does not them and is afraid of them.
– So, doesn’t it want territorial defence of the country organized by citizens?
– Territorial defence is a strong form of self-organization of the society, and the government of Donald Tusk is afraid of its own nation and is undertaking actions based on dividing the nation rather than on integrating it or supporting the social activity, as it will be aimed against the government… So, it is not possible today, that, for example, the system of shooting subdivisions could function in an integrated way in the scale of the whole country, although locally we have many really excellent patriotic and military groups of this kind. All of them function for glory of homeland privately and for their own account.
– Generally speaking, it seems that patriotism is not a feature of the contemporary young Poles, who show rather aversion to the army, so, also to the defence of the country…
– Nevertheless, in this matter I am an optimist. I think that we should help our lost youth, and show young people a direction. The problem is that dispersed little bottom-up initiatives are not enough. And if this dormant patriotism could change into a defence force, political will is needed and particular actions of the government, re-animating the social readiness for the country defence. Frankly speaking, I believe more in spontaneous defending readiness of the nation than the country defence systems prepared by our authorities….
– As a specialist in the sphere of strategic managing national safety you are a very strict critic of the current state of Poland safety. Indeed very little has changed for better since Poland joined NATO?
– Our joining NATO, certainly, brought many benefits but it is also deceitful, naïve sense of safety leading to a kind of ‘laziness’ of political elites which should guard the complexity of situations, assess objectively both NATO and changes taking place in it, as well as our place in this alliance. However, Polish elites treated the membership in NATO only as propaganda of their success and legitimacy of their power. Therefore, for 15 years Poles have been assured only about the fact that they are really safe…
– While they aren’t….?
– It turns out that in Poland the fact was ignored that the alliance in the recent several years weakened its possibilities very much. Its credibility and inner solidarity became very weak. Whereas in our country there is still naïve belief that ‘allies are defending us’. The fact that we should replace this naivety with a realistic thinking was mentioned by me a few years ago, whereas not earlier than on 11 November last year president Bronisław Komorowski announced the ‘doctrine of Komorowski’ in his pronouncement, that is, he delicately negated our uncritical belief in allies and our specialization in NATO, that is, Polish military missions.
– Better late than never.
– That is true. However, although the problem was noticed and announced officially, there is still laziness in the attitude towards issues of safety of Poland – no particular actions were taken. With the beginning of this year, for example, a reform of management and managing Armed Forces system has been implemented, introducing solutions typical for expedition armies, in which the division into operational and general leadership is obliging in Poland. So, why did the president criticize expeditionary action? So, is the Polish army still supposed to get prepared for foreign missions, not for defence of its country?
– Does it mean that defence of one’s own territory with one’s own forces is not considered at all?
– It only means that there is not an idea about how to defend the country, although there appear more and more premises that we should get prepared for it very well. Whereas when it concerns both the mentioned management reform, and for example, purchases of armament, we still have one big chaos in which the accidental situations prevail or pressures of the lobbyists.
– What is necessary to put this chaos in an order?
– In order to build our military safety, we should have a clear concept of defence. Unfortunately, we do not have such a concept!
– Has there ever been the Third Polish Republic?
– It seems that the only alternative idea towards the imposed and obliging project of creating an expeditionary army was building armies of territorial defence. Unfortunately, this idea of ‘improper soldiers’ is intensely sabotaged by the current government, despite the permanent lack of a better solution. Whereas an excellent occasion for creating a kind of innovative project was the recent review of national safety carried out by the National Safety Office – unfortunately it did not give any results. Now we are waiting for the postponed date of the publication of the new Strategy of the National Safety. I am afraid that there will not be any revelations yet…
– You are the author of such an alternative oppositional strategy. What should a good Strategy of the National Safety for Poland be like in your opinion?
– It should be based on identification of the so-called soft and hard dangers. Soft dangers are those which appear during peace (for example, action of hostile agency, destroying culture and tradition, informative war). Fighting them is not difficult, no help from NATO is needed. Hard dangers, (for example, provoking conflicts, committing assassinations, rocket and airline attacks) also can be fought on one’s own. We must expect help from allies only in the case of direct armed attack on the territory of our country. However, I think that if we are able to cope with most soft and hard dangers, the worst one will not come because Russia uses the inner weakness and helplessness of its victims in the first place.
– However, you state that today’s Poland – especially its political and military elite – is completely unprepared, and even does not recognize their dangers. And even after events in the east it is in bliss and lethargy.
– Poland should have woken up at least a few years ago, after the Russian aggression on Georgia in 2008 which was the obvious introduction to further steps of Russia. At that time Polish governing elites were ridiculing this kind of fears and were slandering people who dared to express them. It seems that only now most Polish politicians have woken up, and the society started understanding the significance of the situation. However, like before, muting the problem has started again, as well as minimizing the danger, calming the society. As it is seen, the government stated that it is better to hide every dangerous truth as long as possible, rather than have political losses.
– And now, unlike so far, our whole defence strategy, our national safety is based on these alliances, of which Polish politicians are more proud, especially that they have an occasion to emphasize their merits in the work of contracting them.
– I am afraid that our politicians trust America and the European diplomacy too much, that they do not want to perceive or neglect the game of global interests above our regional heads….After the experience of Ukraine there is some hope that the American-Russian reset will be interested in the Central-Eastern Europe a little more. Certainly, we do not have a guarantee for it….
– Can we rely on more real support when there is a real need?
– In the situation when the American forces have withdrawn from Europe and there has remained only one heavy battalion of war tanks in Germany, a possible help would have to come from America which would take 2-3 months. Despite that, elites are still deceiving the nation with reality and effectiveness of allies’ help, neglecting their own preparations to defend the country. In Poland even today, when the situation requires it, there are not any discussions about safety of the country, no one is looking for any solutions. The government simply cannot or does not want to deal with defence and safety of Poland…
– Why won’t the Third Polish Republic be able to achieve its own defence strategy?
– Because it is uncritical and naïve in relying on allies. Recently the originally Polish works concerning the Polish defence appeared in the Third Polish Republic in the 30s of the last century and in today’s free Poland – after 25 years! – literally one can count only with five fingers how many people are able to create similar fundamental elaborations. Neither the National Defence Academy nor the General Staff created people able to do this kind of task.
– Why not?
– Conformism and nepotism being in our armed forces cause the situation when our military elites are very weak, and the modern Polish thought of defence simply does not exist. Indeed recently the Parliamentary Team for the Polish Army has appeared, but it involves mainly oppositional parliamentarians…..There also functions the National Centre of Strategic Studies – as an initiative of a few private people, who are trying to find some good concepts of military safety of Poland.
However, it is another private concept only which is trying to replace inefficient and reluctant state institutions. And as it has often happened in history of Poland, citizens must defend themselves on their own.
– So, can one say sadly that in the Third Polish Republic neither the Polish army nor the Polish defence system were created?
– Unfortunately, they didn’t. Today we have the army in the state of chaos which nobody is able to cope with. We can only rely on the forthcoming parliamentary elections and the common sense of Poles.