Although they seem similar, there is a fundamental difference between the Brzezinski Doctrine and the Giedroyć -Mieroszewski Doctrine. Whereas the Brzezinski Doctrine was very pragmatic and cautious in outlining future plans for Ukraine in the transatlantic community, Giedroyć and Mieroszewski saw such a scenario as a tangible possibility because from their perspective, Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the EU would strengthen Central and Eastern Europe’s geostrategic position.
There is no agreement in the literature on the subject as to who wrote that “without an independent Ukraine, there cannot be an independent Poland”, but it had to be either Józef Piłsudski, the father of Polish independence, or Jerzy Giedroyć, the editor-in-chief of the highly influential Paris-based periodical Kultura, the only influential East-Central European literary-political publication in the West during the cold war. Nonetheless, we know that thanks to the Giedroyc-Mieroszewski Doctrine, the elite of Polish post-1939 émigrés who sought political asylum in the Western countries after the Soviets installed Polish-speaking apparatchiks such as Bierut and Gomulka in Communist Poland almost unanimously agreed that it would be delusional for Poland to try to expand its Eastern territory to incorporate Vilnius, Novogrudok, Lutsk, Lviv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk in the post-Yalta world order. Although they did not agree with the Communists on most of the fundamental matters related to the submissive nature of Communist Poland’s political system that was completely commandeered to indulge the Kremlin’s every whim, the freethinkers of the anti-Communist opposition such as Jerzy Giedroyć, Stanislaw Cat Mackiewicz, and Ryszard Kaczorowski (the last president of Poland in exile) slowly but surely came to come to terms with the practicality of Stalin’s decision as to the shape of Poland’s eastern border with the Soviet Union after 1944, for in the event of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, a free Poland that would free itself from the Russian sphere of influence would inadvertently benefit from a properly demarcated eastern border with Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Despite what today’s Kremlin propaganda claims, no one in Poland suggests that the former “Kresy” (eastern borderlands) or “Inflanty Voivodeship” (Polish Livonia) should be annexed by Poland. On the contrary, thanks to the cosmopolitan nature of the Giedroyć-Mieroszewski Doctrine, the Polish elite was cured of any delusions of grandeur and smoothly transitioned from the neo-imperialist mindset of the Second Republic of Poland’s outlook towards the East (tending to reopen many wounds from the past) to the much more cosmopolitan Third Republic of Poland’s “Zero Problems with Neighbors” policy (at least until 2015) that had an uncanny resemblance to the Davutoğlu Doctrine and ultimately recognizes the independence and importance of all its neighbors. In essence, thanks to such visionaries as Giedroyć and Mieroszewski, who planted the seed, modern Poland was able to foster strong relations with all its neighbors (even with Russia until 2014). Those relations have been based on mutual respect, peace, and mutually extended security guarantees that built bridges of mutual understanding and not walls of false divisions with neighboring nations.
Nonetheless, Giedroyć and Mieroszewski were not delusional about Russia’s intentions, for they always, even after 1991, saw Russia as a latent threat to Central and Eastern Europe. They knew that in order to stop Russia’s expansionist policies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Polish-Ukrainian alliance would have to be strongly reinforced, so both countries could achieve a more geostrategically beneficial situation in which they could embark on chasing their transatlantic dreams. Although Poland managed to join NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, Ukraine did not escape twentieth-century geopolitics and fell victim to Putin’s revisionist and neo-imperial policies first in 2014 and then in 2022.
Unlike Poland, which has supported every Ukrainian action since February 2022 by offering its heavy defensive weapons and defensive ammunition and hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees, Putin’s Russia questions the very right of Ukraine’s existence. In Munich in 2007, Putin made it clear that he would try to reanimate the corpse of the Soviet Union. In 2008, he started the project by sending his troops to Georgia. In 2014, his “little green man” (the members of Russian Spetsnaz special forces units) were instrumental in annexing Crimea, and a year later, Putin sent his army to rescue a not-so-friendly dictator in Syria. There were no repercussions after these actions, and to his surprise, this changed in 2022, for the moment Russian tanks started rolling toward Ukraine’s borders as an ultimate test of Western unity, Poland and the other Central and Eastern European counties were first to react by advocating strong retaliation against Putin’s actions. Thanks to this effort, the majority of NATO and EU nations responded to Putin’s geostrategic delusions of grandeur with an unprecedented comprehensive sanctions regime.
Although Giedroyć and Mieroszewski were idealistic, and they were very often criticized for the naïve character of their ideas, they were proven right, for they managed to inadvertently shape the future of the region and encourage most of the countries that border Russia to be more proactive in doing their utmost to preventing a domino effect in Eastern Europe – for Russia clearly attempted to implement a Sudetenland-type scenario in Ukraine in 2022. However, thanks to their memory of how they suffered under the Kremlin’s domination, they were the first to demand a Western reaction; otherwise, Ukraine today would not be governed by President Zelensky but by Yanukovych or another loyal non-Ukrainian-speaking apparatchik, and the Ukrainian army together with the Russian and Belarusian armies would now be marching toward the West, whatever the cost. The leaders of these countries were under no illusions that in the event of the Russian whale swallowing Ukraine, Putin’s appetite would not be satisfied, for their Western allies would not promptly come to their rescue, and the Ukrainian scenario would be repeated elsewhere.
That is why despite Ukraine still being one of the most corrupt countries in Europe that cannot even stop its officials from stealing from their own soldiers, who risk their lives protecting their motherland, the majority of Eastern and Central European countries are still (at least for now) determined to offer Ukraine their unyielding support whatever the cost, for they know that without an independent Ukraine there simply cannot be the independent and peaceful Europe of their dreams, and they ultimately would face an even more hostile and unpredictable Russia that would be eager to impose some form of Putinization on them.
This speculation is reinforced by the observation of how the Russian army conducts its operations in Ukraine, for it somewhat resembles the brutal and genocidal Milosevic-era ethnic cleansing by the Serbian army of the Muslim populations in the western Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo, in the 1990s. The names Bucha, Borodianka, Irpin, Hostomel, Mariupol, and many others will always symbolize some of the darkest days in European history, for the Russians were primarily motivated by the same desire to make the occupied territories of modern Ukraine an ethnically homogeneous Russian area.
As a result, the Eastern and Central European countries of today will unhesitatingly arm Ukraine with their military equipment, for they know that the Ukrainian army is fighting for their freedom today. They are particularly eager to contribute to making the Russian “special operation” Russia’s own Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Iraq combined to demonstrate to Putin and his successors that he has crossed one bridge too many.
Andreas Umland recently observed that it would be desirable if “the paradoxical repercussion of an act of aggression would be strengthening rather than weakening of the victim state’s geopolitical position.” He also expressed the desire that “Ukraine’s fate should teach both future possible aggressors and their potential victims three simple lessons: (a) might is never right; (b) rules will be upheld; and (c) that more powerful states will protect weaker ones.” I applaud this type of thinking, and I hope that it becomes prevalent.
Nevertheless, I wonder whether all NATO and EU countries will be eager to preserve this unity of purpose as long as it takes if Russia persists in waging its deadly Ukraine campaign in the years to come. Are they ready to subscribe to the Giedroyć-Mieroszewski way of thinking?
Please also see:
Umland, Andreas. 2023. “How the West Can Help Ukraine: Three Strategies for Achieving a Ukrainian Victory and Rebirth – SCEEUS.” Sceeus, January 11, 2023. https://sceeus.se/en/publications/how-the-west-can-help-ukraine-three-strategies-for-achieving-a-ukrainian-victory-and-rebirth/.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2023. “The Brzezinski Doctrine and NATO’s Response To Russia’s Assault on Ukraine.” Modern Diplomacy, January 12, 2023. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/01/12/the-brzezinski-doctrine-and-natos-response-to-russias-assault-on-ukraine/.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2022. “The International Community’s Response to the PutiniZation of the Situation in Ukraine.” Modern Diplomacy, December 22, 2022. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/22/the-international-communitys-response-to-the-putinization-of-the-situation-in-ukraine/.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2023. “Michael Walzer’s work and the idea of humanitarian intervention in Syria (2011-): The International Response to the Situation in Syria During and After the Arab Spring in: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Regulation of the Modern Global Migration and Economic Crisis. Edited by Alaverdov, Emilia, and Muhammad Waseem Bari. 2023, DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6334-5.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2022. Why has the term “balkanization” become so obsolete that it no longer holds water? | MCC Corvinák. “Why Has the Term ‘Balkanization’ Become so Obsolete That It No Longer Holds Water? | MCC Corvinák.” corvinak.hu, February 9, 2022. https://corvinak.hu/index.php/en/velemeny/2022/02/09/why-has-the-term-balkanization-become-so-obsolete-that-it-no-longer-holds-water.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2022. “The International Community’s Response to the Ghouta Chemical Attack of 2013.” Acta Politica Polonica, 2 (54), 83–93. DOI: 10.18276/ap.2022.54-06.
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2022. “Introducing the idea of Ontology in statu nascendi to the broader International Relations Theory” International Conference Proceeding Series – International Conference on Economics and Social Sciences in Serik, Turkey on 21 – 23 Oct 2022. https://www.eclss.org/publicationsfordoi/abst11act8boo8kIE%26SS2022_antalya.pdf,
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2020. “On Human Rights in Syria: Deliberations on the universality of Human Rights and the International Community’s Reaction to the Syrian conflict (2011 – 2019)” in: Сборник “Универсалност и приложимост на човешките права”. Edited by Veselin Hristov Dafov, Ivan Kirkov, Tsena Zhelyazkova, Sofia 2020, ISBN: 978-954-07-4989-1,
Pietrzak, Piotr. 2014. “American Soft Power after George W. Bush’s Presidency,” in The United States and the World. From Imitation to Challenge. Edited by Andrzej Mania, Łukasz Wordliczek, Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press 2014,