“Sworn Frenemies”, or why Poland supports Ukrainian nationalism



The “Rough Friendship” between Poland and Ukraine

By Wladyslaw Gulewicz

Translated from Polish by J.Hawk

In spite of the existence of an official strategic alliance
between Warsaw and the western Ukrainian nationalists, the latter are more and
more often displaying anti-Polish sentiments. This is causing a certain logical
contradiction: the more Poland is helping Ukrainian nationalists who have
seized power in Kiev, the more unfriendly they are to Poland. Why?

The theoretical foundations of the Ukrainian nationalist
ideology are constructed in such a way that it is wholly impossible to maintain
peace with a country that had adopted it as its official ideology.

Nearly all the classics of Ukrainian nationalism see the
western border Ukraine along the river San (in other words, on the territory of
today’s Poland), and even though Dmytro Dontsov’s works call for the
establishment of a Polish-Ukrainian alliance, even that alliance was to be
temporary. As long as the nationalists were weak, Warsaw could have supported
them, but only to the point that they would not fall, and not to the extent
that they could stand on their own two feet. Warsaw’s own interest should mean
keeping the Ukrainian nationalism under control and using it against Russia.
Only when Ukrainian nationalism is made dependent on Poland it can bring Warsaw
maximum strategic benefits.

Poland wasn’t always able to maintain this sort of balance.
Whenever the scales tipped in favor of Ukrainian nationalism due to major
historical shifts, Ukrainian nationalists would begin to kill Poles on a mass
scale, as happened on the Volhyn in 1943.

After the break-up of USSR, when Ukraine needed Poland’s
help, Ukrainian nationalists tried to show Poland its respect by donning the
masks of worldly democrats in order to undergo the democratic “face control”
when entering Europe.

Official Kiev tried to continue its own political life, but
the old ideas, according to which Poland is counted among the historical
enemies of Ukraine’s independence, continued to fester in the nationalist

First of all, the notion as to where the eastern border of “united
Ukraine” ought to be varies. Some said it should include the Kuban (Pavlo Shtepa),
others saw it in the foothills of the Caucasus (Mykola Machnowski), others even
extended Ukraine to the Caspian Sea (Stepan Rudnytsky). But nobody ever had any
doubts where Ukraine’s western border ought to be: it was always the San river.

If these territories are not adjoined into Ukraine it will
not be possible to build a “unified great power Ukraine”, and it is precisely
Ukraine as a “great power” that is the main and ultimate objective of Ukrainian
nationalists and nationalism.

Secondly, this nationalism has a retrospective character. It
does not look to the future but the past. The nationalists are looking for Ukraine’s
“golden era” in times long gone. The epoch of the growth and active development
of Polish statehood is seen by Ukrainian nationalists as a period of collapse
of Ukrainian statehood, whose beginnings they trace to the Duchy of Halych.
Therefore those historical events which move the Poles cause sadness among
Ukrainians. There is a well-defined contradictory nature of historical
perspectives of the two nations. Polish and Ukrainian nationalists seek good
and bad memories in very different time periods. The only thing that unites
them is Russia. It is the only common “evil.”

Thirdly, Ukraine is in a rivalry with Poland over its “civilizational
mission” and regional leadership, which Poland does not want to relinquish since it
has more historical rights to call itself the regional leader, with its
inherent messianism (without judging whether that  messianism is appropriate or not).

Ukrainian messianism, on the other hand, is entirely made up
and speculative. Ukrainian nationalists had always dreamed of it but never
created it. The biggest dreamer was the founder of OUN’s military doctrine,
Mykhaylo Kolodzinski who wrote “We, when building the Ukrainian superpower,
must push the border of Europe to the Altay and Dzhungaria. That is the space
that Europe is lacking. Ukraine’s calling must be connecting these regions with
Europe in the political, economic, and cultural sense, so that the expression ‘where
two worlds meet’ acquired a real meaning. Just as Julius Caesar opened whole of
Europe to the Latin culture and civilization by capturing the Gaul, so our
revolutionary armies must open the territories to the south and south-east of
Ukraine to the Western European civilization”—Mykhaylo Kolodzinskiy, “Ukrainian
Military Doctrine.

There were times in Poland’s history when it was powerful
and could implement its leadership abilities. Ukrainian nationalism never
experienced anything similar. The Ukrainian nationalists’ desire to replace
Poland as the regional leader is the equivalent of a child wishing to replace
the adult.

Fourthly, ideological concepts formulated by past
nationalist leaders are being re-introduced dogmatically, with no elasticity.
Whatever Dontsov or Lypa wrote is sacred! One can make temporary, tactical
changes, but they don’t change the fundamental nature of Ukrainian nationalism.

Its radicalism is no different from that of Islamic
extremism. Both ideologies want to physically annihilate their opponents, to
blindly follow the letter of own postulates, view both Russia and the West as
enemies, though they are merely a toy in the hands of the latter.

All of this condemns Poland and Ukraine to a “rough friendship”.
The Polish government, by supporting Ukrainian nationalism, is trying to walk
on the edge of the razor without getting cut, in other words, to extract
maximum benefits and incur no losses. Therefore Warsaw is eternally trying to
balance its interests, and Polish diplomats are engaging in verbal acrobatics.

For example, when visiting Kiev, Polish officials are
shouting “Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes!” together with contemporary
OUN-UPA supporters, while back in Warsaw they promise that they will protect the
memory of the Poles murdered on the Volhyn. OUN-UPA are called criminal
organizations in Poland, but at the UN Poland votes against the resolution
conemning the hero-worship of Nazism, including in Ukraine. Poland mourns its
victims of the Second World War, but at the same time the Baltic states, which
see annual parades of old SS-men, are repeating that Poland is a faithful ally,
and the pro-Nazi sympathies in Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn are not an obstacle.

The Novorossia conflict had split the Polish society. A
large segment of the population is sympathetic to the insurgents, though the
pro-Ukrainian position dominates in most media. One can see a certain
ideological confusion in the Polish society due to the conflict between the
desire to condemn banderites and the need to court them for political purposes,
between political russophobia and the understanding that the Novorossia is an
enemy of those who consider OUN-UPA crimes as acts of heroism in the service of

Hence the ambivalent attitudes toward Polish participation
in the conflict. Donetsk and Lugansk authorities more than once noted the participation
of Polish paramilitary organizations, whose members fight on the side of the
UAF. Some politicians are even calling for Kiev to be provided with military
equipment, and even want to send Polish soldiers to the front. The other side
wants to avoid getting involved in the conflict in which the “russkies” and the
“banderites” are killing each other.

This lack of 
stability is causing objections from Ukrainian nationalists, who are
openly saying that West had betrayed Ukraine’s interests. No doubt their list
of enemies will include Poland.

J.Hawk’s comment: The Polish foreign policy is not only
unprincipled but also remarkably self-destructive, as it had managed to
antagonize all sides of the conflict. Poland’s vocal support succeeded in
antagonizing Novorossia and Russia, while the failure to provide concrete
assistance makes the Ukrainian nationalists see red.  Should the Kiev junta survive the war and
prosper, Poland shall bitterly regret playing its two-faced game.

Gulewicz correctly refers to Ukrainian nationalism as being
a “toy” in the hands of the West. However, when one looks at the history of the
20th century, it is clear that the one Western power that had the
most use for Ukrainian nationalism was Germany. It is not by coincidence that
even today many “Ukrainian” soldiers like to wear German camouflage, with German
flags, or even go beyond that and simply wear the swastika or the wolfsangel.
You will not see them wearing the Polish flag, or the Soviet flag, or the
French flag, or even the US flag. The affinity between German and Ukrainian
nationalisms is unsurprising, considering that both have the same “historical
mission” of expanding the boundaries of the “Western civilization” (which
usually simply means Germany’s sphere of economic control) as far East as

The 21st century is picking up right where the 20th
left off. Let’s not forget that the proximate cause of the Maidan had nothing
to do with the United States, which exploited the situation rather
opportunistically. It began with an effort to bring Ukraine into EU’s (and,
therefore, Germany’s) sphere of economic influence through the so-called “association
agreement.” If that agreement would not be signed by a democratically elected
government of Ukraine, it would be signed by one brought into power by
Ukrainian nationalists, while Germany “looked the other way”… So it would be entirely to simplistic to blame the Ukraine civil war solely on the Obama administration (though it had played a very destructive role as well). Certain European powers, including  Germany and Poland, had their hand in it too, not because “Washington made them do it,” but because of their own long-standing political and economic interests.

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