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Poland wants ‘Europe of equal and free nations’ that support victims of aggression: FM

13.04.2023 16:00
The Polish foreign minister has said his country wants to be part of “a Europe of equal and free nations" that "stand in solidarity" with victims of armed conflicts such as Ukraine.
Polands Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau addresses parliament on Thursday, April 13, 2023.
Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau addresses parliament on Thursday, April 13, 2023.PAP/Leszek Szymański

Zbigniew Rau made the statement in a major speech to parliament on Thursday, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported. 

In his address to Poland's lower house, the Sejm, Rau "set out the principles and objectives of Poland’s foreign policy,” according to officials.

‘Watershed moment in European history’

Poland’s top diplomat told MPs that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year marked “a watershed moment in European history.”

He said the war in Ukraine represented “a struggle for the future of Europe,” which “causes us to reflect on matters that are fundamental for every participant in the international system.”

Rau stressed that "for Poland, the only member of NATO and the European Union that borders Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, this reflection is existential in character,” the IAR news agency reported.

Working ‘to ensure peace and security’

The foreign minister said that Poland’s foreign policy was founded upon “three major principles.”

The first principle is “to ensure peace and security,” he stated, adding that “every nation has an inalienable right to peace” and that Poland was “ready to cooperate with any entity recognised under international law that pursues its policies with respect to equal rights and the self-determination of others.”

Rau stated: “We Poles know perfectly well the value of peace ... We are more familiar than any other European nation with the costs of war.”

He urged: “We must actively build an international security system where armed attack is increasingly unlikely.”

At the same time, Rau said, this system should include not only "membership in political and defensive alliances that ensure credible deterrence and effective defence from a potential aggressor,” but also "a measurable financial component in order to rule out the instrument of armed attack from every potential aggressor’s rational calculation of profits and losses.”

This means “Poland’s membership in organisations and coalitions capable of imposing sanctions against countries threatening peace as an indispensable component of keeping order in the world,” Rau told MPs.

‘Democratisation of international relations’

The Polish foreign minister said: “The second principle we must follow in our foreign policy is the democratisation of international relations based on the sovereign equality of all states and nations. It is construed as the antithesis for all sorts of imperialisms, hegemonic aspirations, concerts of powers and their areas of influence.”

He added: “In our efforts to democratise international politics, we have been engaging other states in our region with particular intensity. This is not accidental. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe share unique anti-imperial traditions and experiences. We contribute them as our important input into the formation of the common good in Europe and the world. That is why we consider ourselves to be the epicentre of important contemporary values that safeguard Europe from hegemonic tendencies, institutionalised advantages of large countries over medium and small ones, and from compromising with authoritarian regimes.”

The foreign minister told parliament: “We know better than others that the future of Europe cannot be built on a compromise between freedom and enslavement, but only after rejecting imperial traditions. This is why we want a Europe of equal and free nations that stand in solidarity with the victims of armed force, such as Ukraine today, and Georgia in 2008.”

Compliance with international law

Rau also told lawmakers that “the third principle" of Polish foreign policy "is legalism, understood in terms of observing international law.”

He went on to say: “We believe that the right to defend oneself is every nation’s inalienable right that cannot be renounced or restricted. This also means the possibility of seeking membership in collective defence organisations, which makes effectively exercising that right possible.”

The foreign minister added: “We will defend this not only for our own sake, but also for all countries aspiring to join NATO and the European Union. Since we are on the subject of universal rights, it should be said that no country can be deprived of them. We have been expressing this view for years and we will not cease doing so.”

‘Russia poses the greatest threat to peace in Europe’

Rau stated: "The Russian Federation’s aggressive policy remains the greatest threat to peace in Europe, including Poland’s security."

He said "this has been the case since 2007 when Russian President Vladimir Putin took the floor at the Munich Security Conference."

He added that Russia’s actions have been “directly oriented toward extorting changes to the continent’s security architecture, thereby introducing a major imbalance in access to security.”

Poland’s top diplomat continued: “Russia sought to gain status in Europe for the purpose of curbing its neighbour’s freedom and security. Unfortunately, it gradually moved from words to action, becoming clear that it sought to coerce the international community into recognising Russia’s direct neighbourhood as an exclusive area of influence.” 

He argued that the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński "was the first to discern that ominous trend,” as well as “the first to raise the alarm,” urging Europe in 2008 “to bring Russian imperialism to a halt.”

'Ukraine will prevail, survive, and move the spectre of war away from our borders'

The foreign minister also said that "in the run-up to Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine," Poland, together with “the free world at large” had made “every possible effort” to “prevent the renewal of Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

However, “President Putin turned down peace and chose war, violating the UN Charter and other fundamental standards of international law,” Rau told Polish lawmakers.

He added: “In these circumstances, our policies aim to create a situation in which it becomes clear to everyone that his choice will lead Russia to strategic defeat, while Ukraine will prevail, survive, and move the spectre of war away from our borders.”

Poland seeks to prevent ‘another wave of imperialism’

The foreign minister told lawmakers: “We are realists, therefore we do not believe that a compromise between freedom and enslavement is possible. This is a lesson we learned in the 20th century and one we remember. It is with this mindset that we have been holding talks with President Biden’s administration on US concepts to develop a postwar security architecture in our part of Europe that would guarantee safe and peaceful growth for Ukraine and its western neighbours, including Poland, based on political and military engagement of the United States, on the one hand, and close US-supported political and military cooperation between the countries in our region and Ukraine, on the other.”

Rau cautioned that "like any nation in a crisis situation, Poland must define criteria for success on its own.”

He said: “For us, this includes the restoration of peace in Europe, respect for the norms of international law, and establishment of more systemic, institutional barriers that would protect Poland from another wave of imperialism.”

Poland’s top diplomat vowed that “while pursuing this goal, we will cooperate with all of our allies in the transatlantic area, as well as with many non-European allies, in particular Japan, South Korea, and Australia.”

“This is a true free world coalition,” he added. 

NATO is 'the most effective instrument for defending peace in Europe’

In his speech, Rau described the NATO alliance as “the most effective instrument for defending peace in Europe, as evidenced by its constant attractiveness for potential members and ongoing enlargement process, most recently concerning Finland” and the “ongoing procedure to admit Sweden." 

He assured MPs that Poland was making “every effort to convince our allies - Turkey and Hungary - who have yet to ratify agreements on Sweden’s accession to NATO to do so without undue delay.”

Rau added that “NATO is the key forum for our cooperation with the United States, Great Britain, and France - our allies that possess nuclear weapons and bear particular responsibility for peacekeeping because of the privilege of their permanent membership on the UN Security Council.”

He told parliament that Poland’s position “on the North Atlantic Alliance’s eastern flank imposes on us a special obligation in terms of maintaining our defence capacity at a suitably high level.”

Rau also said that "Poland is a trustworthy ally that approaches its own security responsibly and understands the principle of indivisible security, recognizing the necessity to deepen transatlantic relations,” as well as to “continue increasing our defence expenditure” and actively contributing “to the formation of principles behind the alliance’s strategic documents.”

Poland calls for new NATO model to ensure defence ‘from day one'

He stated: “We will support the development of necessary command structures, troops, infrastructure, plans and exercises. Ahead of the Vilnius summit in July, we would like to have a new alliance forces model approved, ensuring that NATO is able to defend its territory from day one of any future aggression.”

Rau argued that “following NATO’s decisions in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the credibility of this concept was proven right. It was also possible since the NATO protective umbrella increases allies' willingness to support Ukraine while reducing the risk of Russia escalating the conflict to allied territory.”

Poland supports renunciation of 1997 Russia-NATO declaration

Rau cautioned: “It was reckless when in 1997, before the alliance was enlarged to include Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, Russia was granted leeway in addressing NATO with demands to reduce the numbers and capacities of Alliance forces allowed to be stationed on the territory of new member states.”

He added that “the alliance’s unilateral continued observance of that political commitment towards Russia after the latter attacked Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014 led Moscow to a dangerous belief that the sphere-of-influence logic remained a legitimate political category in Russia’s relations with the democratic world.”

The foreign minister noted that “in December 2021, that belief pushed Russia to deliver an ultimatum to the North Atlantic Alliance whereby Russia, threatening Ukraine with war, demanded the withdrawal of NATO’s troops from the alliance’s eastern-flank countries, including Poland. It was rejected and Russia attacked Ukraine.”

Russia 'poses threat to Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Romania, Poland'

Rau said: “That situation is clear proof that Russia treats all its neighbours jointly, and by attacking Ukraine it poses a threat to the Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Romania, and Poland."

"This is why we will support proposals to renounce the 1997 Russia-NATO declaration,” he declared.

Poland will seek to ensure that EU policies are ‘based on consensus of all members’

The Polish foreign minister told MPs: “We are members of the European Union, because in our continent’s current political make-up, being part of European integration is a society’s absolute expression of their aspirations to work together for the common good of all Europeans.”

He added that “this is also the position taken by the overwhelming majority of the Polish public and, by extension, any Polish government regardless of its political persuasion.”

At the same time, Rau said that the EU “was established and functions for free and equal nations united in diversity, deriving its strength from their political will as set out in the treaties and within the limits of power conferred upon it therein.”

He added that “Europe is mostly composed of small and medium-sized states whose policy goals matter just as much as those of countries with the greatest demographic, economic and political potential.”

Rau stated: “That is why Poland’s European policies seek and will continue seeking a modus operandi based on the consensus of all EU members and not on directions from various setups of Europe’s players: pentagons, squares, triangles, let alone dictates from its most powerful members. Similarly, Poland seeks and will seek to ensure that EU institutions in their undesired advocacy do not undermine the diversity of member states and, above all, their constitutional identity.” 

Poland seeks ‘systemic and lasting’ US military presence on its soil 

Rau went on to say that "Russian aggression against Ukraine reassured us in our belief that without the United States and its active engagement, the freedom of European nations would be in jeopardy.”

He added: “The Polish-American alliance was, is, and always will be one of the cornerstones of European security. It not only rests on common strategic interests, but also on a similar perception of international politics, the pursuit of democratisation, rejection of imperialisms, concerts of power or spheres of influence, and most importantly, on the love of freedom.”

The foreign minister further stated: “Over the past several months, the United States, like Poland, provided unprecedented assistance to Ukraine, our neighbour assaulted by Russia. We express our appreciation to President Joe Biden and his administration for America’s support for Ukraine. Never before has the US been engaged to such an extent in the defence of peace across our eastern border and the right of nations to freedom and peaceful development in our part of the continent; in other words, in the taming of imperialism.”

He declared: “We are pleased to note that the experience of the Polish-US alliance influences America’s position on Ukraine.”

Rau announced: “We will strive for a systemic and lasting presence of US troops on our territory. In our opinion, it will enhance United States credibility as leader of the free world and supplier of global strategic deterrence.”

He said that “in this relationship, Poland is not merely a beneficiary of security ensured by the United States in Europe - independently and through the North Atlantic Alliance.”

“We are a sovereign partner contributing to the common policy,” he added.

Poland urges Germany to pay WWII damages

Outlining Polish-German relations, Rau said: “Unfortunately, the debt owed by Germany to Poland is still due. The fact places a dramatic burden on our mutual relations. This is proven by further House resolutions calling on the need to settle the problem of compensation to Poland for the losses it suffered as a result of German aggression and occupation from 1939 to 1945.”

He told MPs: “Exercising the will of this House, expressed in a resolution of September 14, 2022, we officially requested Germany in early October to begin talks on ‘unambiguously accepting the political, historic, legal and financial liability’ for all moral and material damage caused to Poland and its citizens as a result of provoking the Second World War by the Third German Reich; and to regulate this issue by way of treaty.”

Rau said that Poland in January “received an official response" to its request, in which the German government "stated that it was not interested in talks on this subject because it considered the matter of compensation for the consequences of the German attack on Poland closed and settled.”

The Polish foreign minister told parliament: “There is therefore a difference of opinion between Poland, a victim of German attack, and Germany, the aggressor and perpetrator of damage and suffering. The problem exists and we will consistently seek its resolution. In fact, no moral system or legal order allows a situation in which the perpetrator of a crime, and thus the aggressor, is the only one to decide on the moral or material liability for the victims.”

Rau also stated that "Germany is and will remain our ally and an important political partner, but we will strive for the kind of bilateral relations in which the notion of partnership will be equally understood by both sides - as a relationship of two equal entities."

He declared: "We will consequently encourage our German partners to take a historic turn in their policy, especially towards Poland and its interests. We believe that such a change is in the interest of both countries and Europe.”

Thursday is day 414 of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 


Source: IAR, PAP, sejm.gov.pl