Russia’s ambassador to Poland has angered the highest levels of the Polish government by claiming that Russia’s invasion of Poland at the outset of World War II was “self defense.”
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, while the Russians invaded 16 days later. The twin invasions were the result of a secret protocol in the Nazi -Soviet Pact signed August 25, 1939, where the two powers agreed to divide Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.
At the time of the Russian invasion, Stalin claimed that Poland had ceased to exist as a state and Soviet troops were moving in to restore order.
In an interview broadcast on the private TVN station, Andreev also said: “Polish policy led to the disaster in September 1939, because during the 1930s Poland repeatedly blocked the formation of a coalition against Hitler’s Germany. Poland was therefore partly responsible for the disaster which then took place.”
Poland’s Foreign Ministry expressed “surprise and alarm” at those comments, and Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna summoned Andreev for a meeting Monday on the matter.
“The narrative presented by the highest official representative of the Russian state in Poland undermines the historical truth and reflects the most hypocritical interpretation of the events known from the Stalinist and communist years,” the ministry said in a statement.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz also expressed displeasure with the ambassador.
“The role of an ambassador accredited in a country should be to build to build harmony and friendly relations between countries,” Kopacz said.
Relations have never been easy since Poland, a former Soviet bloc nation, rejected Moscow’s control and embraced the West, joining NATO and the European Union. But tensions have been especially high since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a step that Warsaw has strongly condemned.
In other points of contention in recent days, Poland blocked a Crimean official hoping to attend an OSCE conference in Warsaw from entering the country, angering Moscow. Moscow has also protested a Polish town’s dismantling of a monument to a Soviet World War II general, threating Warsaw with “most serious consequences” for that.
Putin is playing the long game in Eastern Europe and this appears to be just one more in a series of provocations. But the Russian president won’t make any overt moves as long as NATO is around. Why should he when he is likely to get what he wants — the disintegration of the western alliance — without having to go to war?
NATO would probably fight to save Poland, but what about Ukraine? When Russia renews the civil war in the next few months, how many Russian “volunteers” will be fighting the Ukrainian government this time? If Putin figures he can get away with it, he may force an end to the conflict and make Ukraine a docile satellite of Moscow.
Poland and other former satellites of the Soviet Union are increasingly in danger and the response so far from the U.S. has been hesitant and inadequate. We appear to be far more interested in not trying to provoke Putin than we are in protecting eastern Europe.
Russia moves its troops around and makes outright threats to Poland and other U.S.-aligned nations. Perhaps it’s time we stopped trying to appease President Putin and make it clear that Russian provocations will be met with resolute actions.