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What in the World?

Why Poland is asking for US nuclear weapons

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his country is open to hosting U.S. nuclear weapons. Why in the world is that up for discussion right now?

Well, as we learn more about Russia’s murderous invasion of Ukraine and the latest discovery of bodies in Bucha, it’s becoming apparent that Moscow has sights set on Poland.

Right now the dominant concern in NATO countries is that the Russians will not stop not just until they’ve gotten all of Ukraine, but until they’ve moved beyond Ukraine. The problem is for the Russians to feel secure, they need to secure a series of gateway territories that separate the Russian space from the rest of the world.

And Putin’s goals for the last 20 years is about getting Russian troops on the ground in as many of those gateways as possible.

Ukraine, unfortunately for the Ukrainians, sits between the Russians in two of those gateways, the Bessarabian Gap that moves over into the Turkish space and the Polish gap, which goes into Poland and the German space.

So from the Russian point of view, they don’t have to just get Ukraine. They need to move into Poland proper and fairly deep into Poland proper.

So, if you’re in Poland, and you can read a map, you know that if the Russians win in Ukraine, they’re coming for you one way or another. Ergo why he wants Nukes. The question is: Will the United States do it?

The United States has had nuclear weapons in Europe, specifically in Germany, now for decades. And yes, it’s a deterrent. I don’t mean to suggest otherwise, but if you really want to stop the Russians from entering Poland, you don’t just need a nuclear facility. You would need the army facilities to protect it as well. 

So if the goal is to stop Russia before it can move into NATO territory, you need to put the American facilities as far east in Poland as is possible so that the Russians know that the day they cross the border they’re facing American troops directly. That, of course, puts them directly in harm’s way, which is the whole point.

Wanted to talk today about some of the events that happened on the weekend of April three to April four.

The one that has really hit the headlines is that the Ukrainians have managed to push the Russians back north of Kyiv and have entered a number of towns where they have found hundreds of people who were, to be perfectly blunt, murdered.

There were entire streets where there was a dead man outside of each house where the Russians had gone in, grabbed the head of household, and simply executed them. There were several dozen bodies that were found with their hands bound and shot execution style. And then there were more than a handful of mass graves.

As the Ukrainians have advanced further north, we know that the original massacre that was discovered in Bucha on April 3rd has now been replicated in a number of other locations.

So we are definitely looking at war crimes quality of activity here.

The only real question in that is: who is ultimately really responsible? A regiment commander? The theater commander? Putin himself? Individual foot soldiers? We don’t have an answer for that, but this definitely qualifies as war crimes under any definition you could care to use.

Almost lost in the background of that was a statement by the deputy prime minister of Poland. One Jarosław Kaczyński, that he was open, that Poland was open to the idea of the United States stationing nuclear weapons on Polish soil.

Now, normally when American troops and American nukes come into the discussion, the answer is usually not just no or an emphatic no, but a lot of grand standing about the no.

The United States in order to have a foreign deployment of size requires something called a status of forces agreement that requires the local government to basically stand aside.

If there are any crimes committed by American forces, they’ll be tried by an American military court, and because of that, the United States has very few large scale deployments unless there’s something else in play.

So for example, today, the United States only has three significant deployments, Germany and Japan, where the SOFA agreements date back to World War II and in Korea where they date back to the Korean War.

So there are mitigating factors in all of these that have prevented the United States from having large scale forces, really anywhere else.

And so here we have a European leader actively, publicly, advocating, not just for American forces, but for the most typically politically divisive type of forces that the Americans have, the nuclear arsenal.

The questions is why and why now?

Let’s start with Kaczynski himself. He may be deputy prime minister, but he’s actually the guy who’s in charge of Poland. In many ways, Kaczynski is a combination of some of the less desirable aspects of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Williams, William Jennings, Bryan. He’s a populist, he’s a nationalist, he’s a horrible manager, and he has refused to go away.

He has been at or near the top of the Polish political scene now for roughly 20 years. And his position as DPM allows him to tell everyone to what to do without having the day-to-day responsibilities for actually carrying out the job. So it’s kind of the perfect spot for someone who’s not good at management, but has the charisma to attract a lot of votes, and he’s made a good world for himself.

What that means, of course, is that Kaczynski, regardless of what you think of his personality or his politics, does speak for the Polish government, because he really is the Polish government. So that’s the who.

Let’s talk about the why. Right now the dominant concern in NATO countries is that the Russians will not stop not just until they’ve gotten all of Ukraine, but until they’ve moved beyond Ukraine. The problem is for the Russians to feel secure, they need to secure a series of gateway territories that separate the Russian space from the rest of the world.

And Putin’s goals for the last 20 years is about getting Russian troops on the ground in as many of those gateways as possible. That’s what the Georgian war was about, in part that’s what Nagorno-Karabakh was about, that’s what the Crimea war was about.

Ukraine, unfortunately for the Ukrainians, sits between the Russians in two of those gateways, the Bessarabian Gap that moves over into the Turkish space and the Polish gap, which goes into Poland and the German space, which means that if the Russians do succeed in conquering Ukraine, and I’m still of the belief that in time with a sufficient application of artillery and inhuman violence, they will, then the next stop is to move into Ukraine.

The specifics of the Polish gap is that it’s a, it’s where the plain narrows. So if you are east of Poland, the flatlands of central Eurasia and Eastern, sorry, what central Eurasia and Eastern Europe are about 2000 miles north and south, but then it suddenly narrows at the Belarusian Polish border to about 300 miles.

And then it narrows to about half of that as you move into Poland, between the Carpathians and something called Masurian Lake District, which is simply too boggy and rugged for tanks to move through.

So from the Russian point of view, they don’t have to just get Ukraine. They need to move into Poland proper and fairly deep into Poland proper. The large, the logical stopping point for a Russian advance would be the Eastern outskirts of the city of Warsaw, right on the Vistula River. That’s the logical break point. It’s the narrowest point of the plain. There’s a river to provide a defensive bulwark.

So, if you’re in Poland, and you can read a map, you know that if the Russians win in Ukraine, they’re coming for you one way or another. Ergo Why he wants Nukes. The question is will the United States do it?

And if so, how? The problem is that the United States has had nuclear weapons in Europe, specifically in Germany now for decades. And yes, it’s a deterrent. I don’t mean to suggest otherwise, but if you really want to stop the Russians from entering Poland, you don’t just need a nuclear facility. You would need the army facilities to protect it as well. You don’t just tend a nuke unescorted. The question then is where would the base be? If you put it to the west of Warsaw, to the west of the Vistula River, on the west side of the gap, the Russians will interpret that as an oblique acknowledgement that anything east of the river is theirs. So if the goal is to stop Russia, before it can move into NATO territory, you need to put the American facilities as far east in Poland as is possible. So that the Russians know that the day they cross the border they’re facing American troops directly, that, of course, puts them directly in harm’s way, which is the whole point.

So, where does this take us? We’ve got a Russia who is already been demonstrated to be boundless in its cruelty, because it sees this war as an existential threat. They’re not going to stop.

And while I might personally have some issues with the Polish deputy prime minister, he’s not wrong. If the goal here is to prevent a NATO-Russian fight, and for whatever reason, we can’t stop that in Ukraine.

Poland is where the line will be drawn, and that requires forward positioned troops to make it stick, whether it’ll be done or not, of course is up to the politics of the Europeans and Washington. And it’s simply too soon to know how that’ll shake out, but this is going to be the debate. All right. It that’s everything for me until next time.

 

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