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The Warsaw Voice » Society » December 19, 2013
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From the Editor
December 19, 2013   
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The hot topic around the world is Iran and China. In Europe it’s electronic surveillance of top politicians, while in Poland it’s Ukraine. Ukraine’s location on the political spectrum between Russia and Western Europe is a key issue for Polish foreign policy. The saying that “there is no free Poland without a free Ukraine” occupies a prominent place in the Polish political lexicon. It is on a par with another saying in another political lexicon: “There is no Russian empire without Ukraine.”

The tension between these two adages informs Poland’s position on Ukraine. That position was formulated long ago, early in the 20th century, by a politician considered by many the father of modern Poland: Józef Piłsudski. He believed that, in the face of Russia’s invincible might, Poland needed a chain of buffer states, with Ukraine the first in line. He developed this concept long before World War II, after which Poland lost a large part of its territory to the Soviet Union and then spent long decades as a Soviet satellite state until 1989.

All this shapes how we view the politics of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the process of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union—or lack thereof—has even greater ramifications. Integrating Ukraine with the EU has two objectives: the democratization of Ukraine and the democratization of Russia.

A key issue in global politics is the role played by Russia. This enormous country’s role will be vastly different if it becomes democratic and reflects so-called Western values, instead of staying faithful to its existing political ideas. A lasting change of doctrine is an epoch-making event and a complex feat to accomplish, especially since both Russia’s political elite and Russian society are deeply mistrustful of the democratic system. A Ukraine that is progressively becoming more democratic would be a valuable testing ground for Russia. Success in Ukraine would serve as a yardstick and as an incentive for Russia. That’s why the era of “buffer states” is giving way to a much more modern idea – cooperation with a Russia that is democratic, as only a democratic Russia would inspire trust.

This is an idea that is trying to gain currency in Europe, thanks in part to Poland’s support.
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