New Warsaw Pact : Anti-Russian alliance is emerging

Outside the Soviet Union, communist Poland was the strongest member of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet-led alliance that bound Eastern Europe between 1955 and 1991. The very name of the treaty underlined Poland’s special role in it. Most Poles disliked Russian rule, but many thought that the Soviets at least could defend them and their newly gained western territories against the Germans.

Today a new kind of Warsaw Pact emerges, this time with a strong anti-Russian and pro-US profile. Poland and the three Baltic republics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — harmonise their policy with regard to their status as super-ally to the United States, their suspicion of Russia and their hidden frustration at “soft” European foreign policy.

The Baltic leaders’ journey to Tbilisi in August to show solidarity with Mikheil Saakashvili was the tip of the iceberg. These countries are the strongest supporters of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) membership for Georgia and Ukraine; they heavily oppose the gas pipeline between Russia and Germany; they openly sympathised with the Chechen fighters against Russian rule.

In domestic politics they also differ from the left-liberal consensus of Western Europe. Homophobic policies, mixed feelings towards Jews, strong anti-left sentiments and denial of rights to ethnic minorities are common. The only distinction is their attitude to the second world war. Poland was a victim of Nazi Germany, while the Baltic rightwingers more or less openly say that the German occupation was no worse than the Soviet rule before and after the war. The ruling conservative parties of these countries firmly believe that the European Union is weak in the face of Russia. On foreign policy and security, only the Americans are reliable.

Poland has an old ambition to become a regional power in central-eastern Europe, but these ambitions were sunk by the European Union. Now the US offers similar status for Poland as its ally — and the US’s missile defence shield, with the installation of American weaponry allegedly pointing at Moscow, marks the crowning of that mission. The most important characteristic of the new pact is super-loyalty to Washington in foreign policy and security affairs.

They see the European Union as an economic club, a source of support to subsidise agriculture and infrastructure. In their eyes the common environmental and social goals of the old member states (and the left parties in the new member states) are less important than the strong cross-Atlantic ties. As a member of the environmental committee of the European parliament, I haven’t seen any serious involvement coming from the Baltic and Polish conservatives concerning environment, and the same goes for social issues.

In this sense they are closest to Eurosceptic Britons, yet they rely on the financial support of richer EU members. Before making a judgment about this new informal alliance we have to try to understand its roots. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (1939) between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia is still deeply imprinted on the spirit of the Polish and Baltic nations. If the Germans and Russians agree on something, their automatic response is suspicion and a desire to find a strong ally. Before the second world war, that ally was the United Kingdom and France, now it is the US. The Georgian war and the deployment of the missile shield merely strengthen

this trend.

Of course, there is a clear political imperative to enlarge this new pact. The Czech Republic is an obvious candidate, given its willingness to accept US missile radar equipment. However, the Czechs are not strong enough in their anti-Russian sentiments, and their society is too liberal and secular in the eyes of the Polish conservatives. Slovakia is traditionally rather pro-Russian: its premier Robert Fico even refused to recognise Kosovo independence. The next jewel would logically be Hungary. Former prime minister and leading opposition politician Viktor Orbn is more than ready to join the Polish-Baltic group.

However, he is still in opposition. The socialist prime minister of Hungary, Ferenc Gyurcsny, tries to keep a good relationship with Russia, which is not only the main gas and oil supplier of his country but an export market. The aim of the Hungarian socialists is to balance their loyalty to the US on security, their correct relationship with Russia, and their commitment to a would-be common European foreign policy. But as there is no such policy, it is not so easy for this small nation to resist the temptation to join the alliance of the pro-US and anti-Russian hawks.

What Hungary — and Europe — needs is a common strategy, based on a military strategic alliance with the US and on constructive cooperation with Russia. But, first of all, Europeans should trust themselves: they are not an endangered species without Russia and the United States. — The Guardian