In June 2004, during the run-up to the Ukrainian presidential election that would result in the Orange Revolution, eight major Polish political parties were questioned by the prominent daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza as to their various Ukraine policies  . Each of the eight parties came out strongly in support of a westward turn by Ukraine, away from Russia and towards eventual market economy status and membership in the EU and NATO. The then-ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and its opposition off-shoot Civic Platform (PO) warned of a future partnership with the Kremlin if Ukraine could not be drawn in a westerly direction, and the currently-ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) stressed that Ukraine should be the focus of European eastern policy. Revealingly, the response from the Freedom Union party (UW) noted that the Polish objective ‘from the viewpoint of history, geopolitics, and economics’, indeed ‘one of the most important objectives of our European policies’, was a westward-facing Ukraine.
In the following months, the Polish government would vigourously pursue such a policy, with considerable effect, both as a mediator during the Orange Revolution and as an outspoken advocate for Ukraine’s European aspirations. Yet Warsaw’s stance vis-à-vis Ukraine, as outlined in the various responses to the 2004 Gazeta Wyborcza questionnaire, is hardly a new development ; in fact it is the product of a longstanding geopolitical response to insecurities along Poland’s eastern border. This response, known in Poland as Międzymorze (‘between the seas’), is little-known or studied outside of Central and Eastern Europe, but has traditionally featured prominently in Poland’s foreign policymaking. As pro-Western and pro-Kremlin parties yet again square off in the upcoming 2007 Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada elections, the role of Poland (so central in the Orange Revolution of 2004) remains essential. European policymakers have long hoped for democracy to take root east of the Oder River, yet for this to happen Warsaw must continue the overtures it has made towards its neighbours to the east, and governments elsewhere must understand the potential transformative energy Poland possesses with respect to Ukraine in particular. This article seeks to examine the role Poland’s Międzymorze policy has played and continues to play with respect to its relations with Ukraine.
Międzymorze from 1569 to 1991
Every hour on the hour, in Poland’s ancient city of Kraków, a bugler ascends the staircase of the municipal watchtower attached to St. Mary’s Church on the city’s Main Market Square to play the hejnał, or ‘bugle-call’, but the mournful melody drops off sharply after only a few seconds. This is done to commemorate a previous bugler who successfully sounded an alarm to the city during the first Tatar invasion of Poland in 1241, only to be shot through the throat with an arrow in medias res. This hourly ritual, broadcast at noon daily on Polish public television, is a quotidian reminder of the threats Poland has traditionally faced from the east. In the words of the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert,
the siege continues for so long a time the enemies have to change
they have nothing in common but the desire to annihilate us
when some hordes depart others immediately appear
Goths Tatars Swedes imperial legions  .
It is little wonder that Poland has been dubbed ‘God’s Playground’  . Yet the commonplace perception of Poland as a perennially-besieged or captive nation overlooks a thread running through centuries of Polish history – a robust foreign policy directed at the region between the Baltic and Black Seas. Known as Międzymorze (literally ‘between the seas’), this geopolitical strategy evolved as the natural result of Poland’s eastern insecurities. Międzymorze, first evident under the medieval Piast dynasties, continues to manifest itself in the Twenty-First Century. Indeed, Międzymorze may fairly be said to hold the key to the ongoing democratization projects in Eastern Europe. Yet the deep history of this approach must be understood first, for in Poland, as the romantic-era writer Cyprian Kamil Notwid put it, ‘the past – it is today, but somewhat removed.’
Despite Poland’s cultural and religious ties with the West, its foreign policy objectives have traditionally been targeted to the East. As Donald Palmer noted, as early as the medieval Piast dynasty ‘Poland’s rulers looked eastwards or southwards for expansion, to the Ukraine’  . By the time of the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita Obojga Naradów, Polskiego I Litewskiego) in 1569, it was well established that
Poland had a more differentiated attitude towards the ‘east’, in part because it still had ambitions in the region which, as in the Ukrainian vision, has often been defined as stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas (the area between the seas, or in Polish Międzymorze)  .
More than three hundred years of the Rzeczpospolita left a deep imprint on East Central Europe. The Commonwealth brokered the Union of Brest in 1596, which split the Kyivan Rus’ Church in twain by placing many Ukrainian Orthodox churches under the authority of the Roman papacy, leaving Ukraine culturally and religiously divided to this day. Furthermore, the Rzeczpospolita often functioned as a tool of the economic and cultural colonization of Galicia and Volhynia (western Ukrainian regions) by Catholic Polish landowners, thereby creating close ties between eastern Poland and western Ukraine, along with sharp cultural fault lines and a series of Cossack rebellions throughout the Seventeenth Century. The cultural impact on Poland was likewise considerable ; it was in this period that the perplexing cult of Sarmatianism arose, wherein Polish aristocrats played up an imagined descent from the Sarmatian and Scythian tribes of the Ukrainian steppes  . Thus, despite the predilection of Poles during this era to refer to Ukrainian or Belarusian territory merely as kresy, or ‘borderlands’  , the centrality of these regions to the Rzeczpospolita’s geopolitical security was undeniable.
Yet the monarchia mixta of the Commonwealth was profoundly unstable. J.-J. Rousseau famously described it as
si bizarrement constitué a pu subsister si longtemps…[et] différente de naturel, de gouvernement, de moeurs, de langage, non seulement de celles qui l’avoisinent mais de tout le reste de l’Europe (so strangely constituted as to be unable to last for long… [and] differing by nature, government, customs, and language not just with neighboring countries but also with the rest of Europe)  .
For the Commonwealth to even last some two hundred years was something of an achievement, but weakened by rebellions in Ukraine and lacking political and social cohesion, it eventually lost control the territory between the Baltic and Black Sea and gradually succumbed to the designs of the Prussian, Habsburg, and Czarist empires. The infamous partitions followed in 1772, 1793, and finally in 1795. The natural reaction by inhabitants of the so-called kresy was to rejoice, but Ukrainian schadenfreude was tempered by the cold realities perceived so eloquently by the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in his 1845 poem bearing the almost Burkean title ‘To the Dead, the Living, and the Yet Unborn’ :
You boast that, once, we brought Poland down.
Yet when Poland fell, you were crushed as well.
Then fathers spilt blood for Moscow and Warsaw,
Bequeathing to sons their chains, their renown ! 
It was around this time that Russia began to take note of the relationship between Poland and Ukraine. Mykola Kostomarov, writing in the St. Petersburg journal Osnova, posited that
If, linguistically, Ukrainians are less close to Poles than they are to Great Russians, in national character they are more akin to the Poles…To be sure, there is a deep gulf which separates the Poles and the Ukrainians, a gulf which may never be bridged. Poles and Ukrainians are like two branches growing in opposite directions : one is pruned and has born refined fruit – the nobility ; the other produced a peasantry. To put it more bluntly : the Poles are aristocratic while the Ukrainians are a democratic people. Yet these two labels do not reflect the histories of the two peoples : Polish aristocracy is very democratic ; Ukrainian democracy is very aristocratic. 
For all of Kostomarov’s untoward generalizations, the image of Poland and Ukraine as diverging branches is a useful one. Conjoined histories have provided a link between the two nations despite centuries of animosities and dissimilar geopolitical circumstances.
When Poland regained its independence after World War I, this time as the Second Polish Republic, Międzymorze returned with a vengeance. In fact it was during this period that the term Międzymorze was first officially used (despite having been de facto policy for centuries  ). Poland went on the offensive, and the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1919 resulted in the annexation of Ukrainian territory up to the Zbrucz River, including the strategic city of Lviv (Lwòw in Polish). The battle for the Międzymorze region continued during the Polish-Soviet War, which began in 1919 and ended in 1921, after Poland’s Marshal Jòzef Piłsudski managed to defeat the Soviet army near Warsaw, at the ‘Miracle at the Wisła (Vistula)’. The young Polish Republic thereby secured advantageous terms at the 1921 Treaty of Riga, which granted Poland all of Galicia and most of Volhynia, though the rest of Ukraine became a Soviet satellite state (the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic)  .
Although Piłsudski envisioned a Polish-led zone of security from Romania to Lithuania, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact mooted any further efforts towards security within the Międzymorze. In the chaos of the subsequent German-Soviet conflict, Polish and Ukrainian partisans fought both occupying powers as well as one another, and the post-war period featured forced population transfers, all of which served to bequeath a legacy of mutual distrust to future generations. And as long as both Poland and Ukraine remained captive nations under Soviet control, any possibility of the exertion of Polish influence in traditional zones was impossible. After the dramatics events of 1989 and 1991, however, old modes could be reestablished.
The post-independence era has been marked by a resurgent effort on the part of Poland to influence the affairs of its eastern neighbour, as seen in both symbolic political gestures as well as more tangible political, economic, and security measures.
Poland was the first nation to formally recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991 (this in stark contrast to Russia, which viewed the very idea of an independent Ukraine as ‘a bad joke that would be forgotten within days, if not weeks’  ). This swift recognition of Ukrainian nationhood on the part of Poland is one of many symbolic measures undertaken since the breakup of the Soviet Union designed to reconcile the two countries and build towards a stronger tangible partnership. With the bitter history of subjugation, rebellion, and resultant smoldering animosity, symbolic reconciliation between Poland and Ukraine has been a prerequisite for closer political relations.
The forced population movements following World War II did not only upset the ethnic status quo ante bellum, but the status of cultural treasures. Polish-dominated cities in Ukraine, particularly Lviv, had been home to repositories of important artifacts, the most outstanding being the Zakład Narodowy im Ossolińskich (Ossoliński National Museum). After the ‘depolonization’ campaigns, the Ossolineum was moved to Warsaw and then Wrocław, but many of the holdings remained in Lviv. To reconcile disputes over cultural heritage that would inevitably arrise in the post-Soviet era, the ‘Treaty between Ukraine and the Republic of Poland on Good Neighborliness, Friendly Relations, and Cooperation’ was signed on May 18, 1992, ensuring that ‘the Sides will take steps to disclose and return the movable treasures of culture, history, and archives of the other country (Art. 5, §2)’  . As a result, the restitution of Polonica and Ukrainica has been widespread, as opposed to Russia’s handling of looted cultural treasures, which are seldom returned to Ukraine owing to a Russian law nationalizing archival holdings regardless of origin  . In establishing a strong restitution framework, and by quickly recognizing Ukrainian independence, Poland has subtly positioned itself as a willing partner and honest associate, in contrast to the Kremlin’s less gracious behavior.
Further efforts at symbolic reconciliation took place throughout the 1990s. Poland’s then-President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Ukraine’s then-President, Leonid Kuchma, began meetings concerning historical grievances in 1995, and two years later, in May 1997, a formal reconciliation was signed in Kyiv. Mutual wrongs were enumerated, and leaders of the two countries laid wreaths at symbolically charged cemeteries and monuments in Lviv, Jaworzno, Kharkiv, and other sites across the border region  . To what extent governments can implement historical reconciliation between nations from the top down in unclear, but the diplomatic impact of these symbolic measures is clear. Bilateral relations continued to improve throughout the 1990s, together with the continuation of a meaningful dialogue concerning the bitter aftertaste lingering from the partisan violence in Galicia and Volhynia in the 1940s.
The formal reconciliation in 1997 was not the end of the story. On July 11, 2003, Presidents Kwaśniewski and Kuchma again met, this time in the Volhynian village of Pavlivka, for the dedication ceremony of a bilingual monument (which reads ‘Death, Grieving, Unity’) on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Volhynian massacres  . The ceremony was accompanied by declarations made by the two countries’ representative bodies – the Polish Sejm and the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada – and featured an appeal by Pope John Paul II (who was himself of joint Polish-Ukrainian descent) to ‘tear ourselves away from the painful past’ so that Poland and Ukraine could ‘build a future together, based on mutual respect, fraternal cooperation and authentic solidarity’  . The run-up to the ceremony prompted domestic debates over the nature of the atrocities committed by Poles and Ukrainians sixty years before, and the parliamentary declarations were opposed in Poland by the League of Polish Families party, and in Ukraine by a small minority of legislators. Still, the ceremony has been positively compared to the meeting of United States President Ronald Reagan and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at the Bitburg Cemetery in 1985  .
Two years later, on June 25, 2005, President Kwaśniewski once again met with the Ukrainian President in Lviv, though this time it was with the Orange Revolution’s hero, Viktor Yushchenko. This ceremony marked the opening of the Eaglets’ Cemetery, where Polish soldiers killed defending Lviv during the Polish-Ukrainian War rest. The Lviv City Council had opposed the opening of what was essentially a monument to the Polish army’s campaign against Ukraine on Ukrainian soil, but the goodwill engendered by the Orange Revolution permitted another instance of symbolic reconciliation, and the cemetery was renovated and opened to the public. During the ceremony, Kwaśniewski spoke of welcoming Ukraine into the ‘family of European Union states’, while Yushchenko remarked that ‘Without free Ukraine, there is no free Poland and without free Poland, there is no independent Ukraine’, a formulation reminiscent of the aforementioned line by Taras Shevchenko, ‘Yet when Poland fell, you [Ukrainians] were crushed as well’  . At the Eaglets’ Cemetery ceremony, symbolic reconciliation, European integration, and the necessity of a Polish-Ukrainian for prosperity and security in East Central Europe all came together.
Again, it is unclear to what extent these ceremonies impact the real state of historical grievances between Poland and Ukraine. As Yaroslav Bilinsky points out, ‘victims and their families, who may still hope for legal compensation, will not be satisfied’  , and, as Timothy Snyder put it, ‘Critics in Kyiv contended that such reconciliation was unnecessary, since Poland and Ukraine enjoyed good relations as states…[and] [c]ritics in Warsaw made the point that one cannot decree historical reconciliation, and that meetings of presidents do little to change public opinion’  . Nonetheless, this is a region where historical symbolism is omnipresent. In the Spring of 2005, for instance, city officials in Warsaw changed the name of a public square to honor the Chechen rebel Dzhokhar Dudayev, prompting Russia to retaliate by renaming the Moscow street on which the Polish Embassy was located to honor General Mikhail ‘The Hangman’ Muraviev, who brutally put down the Polish insurrection of 1863  . Rows between Poland and Germany over the legacy of World War II flared up continuously between 2005 and 2007, often affecting European Union negotiations. Symbolic politics is a staple of Central and Eastern European diplomacy, and is certainly meaningful. Thus, the Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation ceremonies of 1997, 2003, and 2005 must be taken seriously as a sign of ameliorating relations between Warsaw and Kyiv.
Amidst the wreckage of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, the Polish poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski penned 15.VI.43, in which he begged :
Only take out of these my eyes
The painful glass mirror – image of days
Which roll white skulls
Through burning meadows of blood.
Only alter this crippled age,
Cover the graves with the river’s robe,
Wipe from hair the battle dust,
The black dust
Of these angry years  .
Poland and Ukraine, through dramatic acts of historic reconciliation, have continually attempted to do just what Baczynski hoped for – wipe away the dust of angry years. In this way the grounds for bilateral political, economic, and security cooperation were laid.
Bilateral Political, Economic, and Security Cooperation
The most dramatic efforts made by Poland to ensure a westward shift in Ukrainian foreign policy were those surrounding Ukraine’s democratic Orange Revolution. During the tense days and weeks of late 2004, Polish President Kwaśniewski and the Polish hero of Solidarność, Lech Wałęsa, played critical mediating roles, helping to forge an agreement between Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko’s pro-Western bloc and Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Kremlin Donetsk clan, wherein both sides stipulated a repudiation of force and a pledge to use the Ukrainian Supreme Court in the electoral dispute  .
The end result, a victory for Yushchenko and his allies and supporters, had a signification which was not lost on Polish policymakers. Kwaśniewski later remarked to the Polish daily newspaper Polityka that ‘for every superpower, Russia without Ukraine is a better solution than Russia with Ukraine’, prompting Putin to lash out at the Polish president, saying that the statement implied a ‘desire to isolate the Russian Federation’  . Kwaśniewski may have later claimed that Putin misunderstood him, but there is no doubt that Poland can claim to have gained a great deal from the Orange Revolution. On 31 August 2005, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko appeared at a ceremony held in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarność, and in his speech he declared that ‘for the Ukrainian people the idea of Solidarity was symbolic’ and that ‘for millions it was a banner of independence’, whereupon Lech Wałęsa declared that, through the Solidarity movement ‘the [Soviet] bear got his teeth knocked out…[and] he could no longer bite other nations trying to break away to freedom’  . Given the recent events of the Orange Revolution, the subtext could hardly be clearer. The events of the Orange Revolution, and Poland’s role therein, demonstrated the considerable potential of a partnership between a vigorous eastward-looking Poland and pro-western Ukrainians.
Yet Poland’s role in the Orange Revolution was the result of a decade’s worth of strengthening of bilateral ties. Throughout the 1990s, political cooperation between Poland and Ukraine gained momentum in tandem with the various efforts at historic reconciliation, as evidenced by the Polish push for Ukrainian entry into various regional and sub-regional organizations, bilateral collaboration over trans-border issues, in addition to Poland’s dramatic role in the Ukrainian election crisis of 2004. This strategic partnership, together with the intergovernmental efforts at historical reconciliation, has also entailed cooperation on economic and security policies, thereby ensuring a firm foundation for future, more comprehensive, Ukrainian westward integration.
Once Poland had emerged from communist rule and was assured of future NATO membership, it could afford to engage more proactively with its neighbor to the east. The official Polish position on this engagement policy with Ukraine is as follows :
Poland declares its strong support for the Ukraine in its ambitions to develop closer relations with countries and institutions of the Euro-Atlantic community. The good rapport between the two countries is demonstrated by the functioning of the Consultative Committee of Presidents of the Republic of Poland and the Ukraine, founded in 1993. A number of issues have been undertaken within its framework, including the co-operation of international organisations, local government and non-governmental institutions, problems of economic co-operation (including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions), and military and cultural co-operation across borders. The development of Polish-Ukrainian partnership plays a special role in Poland’s Eastern policy  .
This policy has had a substantial impact. Between 1995 and 1997 Poland came out strongly for Ukrainian involvement in two regional and sub-regional organizations, the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA)  . Ukraine, however, remained a member of the 1992 Tashkent Collective Security Treaty (along with Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the post-Soviet states of Central Asia), and the Polish foreign ministry became concerned that, with NATO expanding to the east, Ukraine could become divided from its western neighbor. Consequently, Poland’s invitation to join NATO in July of 1997 was accompanied by the NATO Charter on a Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine  .
Poland’s pursuit of Ukrainian westward integration certainly came as a result of self-interest. The post-communist Polish Powrót z Europy (‘Return to Europe’) would be undermined if Poland, while integrating with the EU and NATO, simultaneously has to serve as the continent’s geopolitical bulwark against the Russian Federation’s ‘near-abroad’. It was equally in Ukraine’s best interests to become involved in CEFTA and a loose partnership with NATO. After the 1997 Russian economic crisis, and the 2003 territorial dispute between Kyiv and Moscow over the Tuzla Straits, this strategy of political and organizational diversification was a wise one. Poland’s steadfast support for full Ukrainian accession to the EU and NATO, undertaken with the full support of all eight Polish political parties  , as well as the creation of an inter-parliamentary assembly involving the legislature of Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania (the three key nations of the Rzeczpospolita  ), together represent consistent attempts to further transform this political relationship.
Polish membership in the EU has transformed its ability to pursue trans-border cooperation with Ukraine, primarily due to increased funding. By 2004, according to Marzenna Guz-Vetter of the Polish Institute of Public Affairs, ‘the amount of funds earmarked for the support of trans-border cooperation between Polish and Ukrainian regions will for the first time approximate the amount of funds earmarked for co-operation on the Polish/German border in the 1990s’, with the eastern Polish voivodships (provinces) receiving 40 million Euros between 2004 and 2006  . Trans-border issues became increasingly important with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and tensions threatened to arise when the Polish population in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, and the Ukrainian population in Przemyśl, each around 2 to 4 percent of the cities’ populations, increasingly asserted their rights as ethnic minorities  . Luckily, ‘the possibility of obtaining EU funds for cross-border cooperation, for which a Ukrainian partner city or region would be required, contributed to an appreciation of the benefits of closer cooperation with Ukraine’  . With the UEFA 2012 football tournament set to be held jointly by Poland and Ukraine, the issue of border passages is especially timely, and figures to be a spur towards greater cooperation between border control agents, frontier and police forces, and interior ministries.
Given the benefits of trans-border collaboration (thanks in part to the EU), the increasing flow of traffic crossings, and the impact of CEFTA, Polish-Ukrainian political cooperation has not only helped the two nations overcome the potential stumbling blocks posed by ethnic minorities in Lviv and Przemyśl. It has also led to concrete economic gains. As Poland becomes a service sector hub (attracting service and research centers for companies like Motorola, Samsung, Delphi, and Volvo  ), and Ukrainian factories emerge from a post-Soviet malaise through ongoing privatization and re-privatization efforts, the makings for complementary economic relations are in place. Poland is still an emerging market, however, and has little excess capital to invest in Ukraine. Additionally, there are few cities along the Polish-Ukrainian frontier, other than Lublin (population 350,000) and Rzeszów (population 161,000), and cross-border trade is typically of the ‘suit-case’ or ‘shuttle’ variety, chiefly cigarettes and alcohol  . With increasing Polish integration within the EU economy, this may change over time, but it will be a long-term process.
Of critical importance now is the issue of energy dependence on Russia, on the part of both Poland and Ukraine. The natural gas crisis of January 2006, during which Moscow began to charge market rates for incoming gas (as opposed to previously-negotiated discount rates), prompting Ukraine to threaten to cease to function as a transit state to the west, shocked European governments, including Warsaw’s. This situation had been predicted, however. In the early 1990s, Polish authorities had expressed ‘horror’ that a ‘Russian-Ukrainian conflict could limit gas supplies to Poland’  . According to the Polish Geological Institute, Poland’s natural-gas rich Wielkopolska region could, if fully developed, could handle no more than half of Polish domestic consumption (currently the region accounts for 43.2 percent  ). Thus, Poland can never be fully independent of Russian or Central Asian natural gas supplies, and cannot become a net exporter itself, and so must remain, like Ukraine, a transit state. Thus, Poland and Ukraine are joined at the hip on energy policy with respect to Russia, and it is likely that this shared status will result in further energy policy cooperation, particularly as Poland seeks to put together a ‘small coalition’ to pursue gas diversification (especially given Western inaction on the Polish proposal of a sort of ‘energy NATO’  ).
Energy does not present the only security issue bound up in the burgeoning Polish-Ukrainian partnership. Since Ukraine has been described as the ‘security fulcrum of Europe’ and ‘a bridge and stabilizing force between East and West’  , Poland’s role as a member of NATO and an independent actor pursuing security within the Międzymorze requires a close relationship with Ukraine. The key to this relationship is the joint peacekeeping force known as PolUkrBat (or, from the Ukrainian perspective, UkrPolBat). Originally conceived at a joint meeting of Polish and Ukrainian defense ministers on October 5, 1995, PolUkrBat was officially formed on March 31, 1998, and has fielded 545 Polish and 267 Ukrainian soldiers in Kosovo  . This cooperative venture between the Wojsko Polskie (Polish Army) and Zybroyni Syly Ukrainy (Armed Forces of Ukraine) has since expanded to include a Lithuanian component, and on May 11, 2005 meeting PolUkrBat became LitPolUkrBat, and will, like PolUkrBat, take part in the Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping mission, and may be deployed in Moldova and Georgia in the future  . Polish-Ukrainian joint military efforts have not been restricted to KFOR, however. As part of the US-led Coalition in Iraq, Polish and Ukrainian troops have served together in the Polish-controlled south-central Iraq stabilization zone, with ‘Warsaw officials [having placed] special emphasis on the political importance of Ukraine’s participation in the Polish sector in Iraq’  . Although the 1,600-strong Ukrainian contingent in Iraq was withdrawn in 2005, Ukraine has continued its involvement in Iraq by providing infrastructure and supporting the NATO-led police training mission  . Polish-Ukrainian cooperation in Iraq not only led to further operational ties, but to the solidification of Ukraine’s relationship with NATO, something the Polish government has been seeking since it joined the Atlantic alliance in 1999.
Poland, through its involvement in international organizations like the EU, NATO, the Central European Initiative, and the Central European Free Trade Area, has consistently pursued the goal of Ukrainian westward integration. By fostering economic ties, engaging joint peacekeeping missions, by forging closer political relations, and by fostering the democracy and rule of law in Ukraine, most significantly during the Orange Revolution, Poland has sought ensure that Ukraine would not merely be ‘looking west [and] smiling east’  , but actively turning west. By combining a push towards stronger relations with its Baltic neighbors (via the Mare Nostrum Council of Baltic Sea States Initiative) with an even more concerted policy of integration with Ukraine (as described above), Poland has reinvigorated the Międzymorze approach of seeking security between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.
In fact, the Polish government’s Ukrainian engagement has been one of the most stable policies in a political environment constantly in flux, with the Kwaśniewski administration having held its nose during the Ukrainian scandals like the Iraq arms shipment affair and the suspicious murder of the journalist Giorgiy Gongadze, in the hopes that the contact would pay off (as it certainly did during the Orange Revolution). The change of government in Warsaw in the fall of 2005, with a center-right coalition led by President Lech Kaczynski taking over from Kwaśniewski’s center-leftist government, has done nothing to change the equation  . Indeed, energy security and the Russian saber-rattling over missile defense have if anything added to the matter’s urgency.
Future Prospects for Międzymorze
Since independence, Poland has engaged in a Powrót z Europy (‘Return to Europe’), a notion first outlined in a January 30, 1990 speech by Poland’s Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki to the Council of Europe  . This move to the West culminated on 12 March 1999, when Poland formally joined NATO, and on 1 May 2004, when it acceded to the EU. Concomitantly, Poland has successfully moved to strengthen Transatlantic ties, earning the status of a model American ally  . Yet Poland will never rest easy as long as the River Oder is Europe’s ne plus ultra – better the River Bug.
Yet the Międzymorze project proceeds in fits and starts. Internal political crises in Poland, which have resulted in moves towards a premature election to be held in October or November of 2007, as well as constant skirmishing with fellow EU member-states over issues of trade and representation within the European body, have combined to stall what had been a proactive eastern policy. While a preoccupation with western European affairs is the natural and probable consequence of EU membership, Poland cannot rely on Brussels for a resolution to its eastern concerns. All too often overawed by the Kremlin, or focused on a myriad of other pressing or picayune issues, policymakers from EU member-states have generally side-stepped the Ukrainian question, dangling the EU membership carrot while avoiding meaningful engagement.
Yet regional arrangements offer the way forward. The historical ties that bind countries like Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine together have produced contemporary arrangements like inter-parliamentary assemblies and joint peacekeeping forces. National interests likewise align. The countries situated between the Baltic and Black Seas have felt the pressure exerted by a revanchist Kremlin, whether in the form of Estonia’s ‘Bronze Soldier’ crisis of 2007, the energy concerns shared by the Baltic nations and Poland, the economic and political interference of Russia seen in Ukraine, Moscow’s support of separatist de facto states in Moldova and Georgia, and so on. For countries with longstanding historical relationships to take the lead in confronting shared threats is only natural, and the goals of democratization, anti-corruption reform, economic integration, and eventual accession to international organizations are best served by cooperation between neighbouring states that share a historical family and national interests.
A slightly broader version of this notion was set forth in the so-called Borjomi Declaration of 2005, promulgated by Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili of Ukraine and Georgia respectively. The Borjomi Declaration attempted to establish a ‘Community of Democratic Choice’ in the Baltic-Black-Caspian Sea region, wherein a ‘sea of democracy, stability, and security…a fully integrated region of Europe and of the Democratic and Atlantic community’ would be established  . This region, the two leaders held, possesses a unique potential of human resources, transit lines, energy resources and communications between Europe, Central Asia and the Far East. Yushchenko and Saakashvili correctly pinpointed the strategic importance of this region, an importance that has not been lost on generations of Polish policymakers.
Poland, with its unique status in Europe (just as in Rousseau’s day), has the potential to be the driving force of Europe’s eastern policy. Its ancient concept of Międzymorze, as applied to present circumstances, can be of vital use for nations like Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, each of which are caught between East and West. If it is the case that, as the Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Bilinsky maintains, ‘Poland, not Russia, is the true strategic partner of Ukraine’  , the ramifications of this partnership will be of the utmost importance in the coming years not only for the governments in Warsaw and Kyiv, but also those in Moscow, Washington, D.C., Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe. Notions of national brotherhood, when combined with concretely aligned national interests, present an opportunity for the nations of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to again work together, this time in a democratic context, for the sake of development, democratization, and security. It is time for the rest of the Euro-Atlantic community to comprehend the utility of employing Poland as a proxy in this endeavour ; it is a role for which the modern-day Rzeczpospolita Polska is eminently suited.
*Matthew Omolesky was educated at Kenyon College, University College London, and the graduate program of the Whitehead School of Diplomacy. He is currently a juris doctor candidate and research assistant at the The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law in Columbus, Ohio, and has written for publications including the Düsseldorfer Institut für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik’s Transatlantic Relations section, the Social Affairs Unit (UK), and the American Spectator.
 Kuzio, T. (2004). ‘Poland Lobbies EU Membership for Ukraine’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 1, Number 29.
 Quoted in Hyde-Price, A. (1996), The International Politics of East Central Europe, University of Manchester Press : Manchester, p. 223
 Davies, N. (2002), God’s Playground : A History of Poland (2 vols.), Columbia University Press : New York.
 Palmer, A. (2005), Northern Shores : A History of the Baltic Sea and Its Peoples, John Murray : London, p. 13
 Wilson, A. (2002), The Ukrainians : Unexpected Nation Yale Nota Bene : New Haven, pp. 286-7.
 Sarmatianism is perhaps best described in Ascherson, N. (1996), Black Sea : The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism, Vintage : London. The cultural impact of Sarmatianism revealed itself in fashion, the visual arts, and literature (accounting for the orientalist strain in the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz’s ‘Crimean Sonnets’).
 Magosci, P.R. (1996), A History of Ukraine, University of Washington Press : Seattle, p. 17.
 Evans, R.J.W. (2001), ‘The Polish-Lithuanian Monarchy in International Context’, in R. Butterwick (ed.), The Polish-Lithuanian Monarchy in European Context, c. 1500-1795, Palgrave : Basingstoke, p. 36. Translation my own.
 Quoted in Snyder, T. (2003), The Reconstruction of Nations : Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 Yale University Press : New Haven, p. 105.
 Doroshenko, D. (1957). Survey of Ukrainian Historiography/Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. V-VI, New York, pp. 137-9.
 See Dziewanowski, M.K. (1979), Joseph Pilsudski : a European Federalist, 1918-1922, Hoover Institution : Stanford, 1979).
 Ibid., p. 140.
 Bilinsky, Y. (2005). ‘How to Keep Open the Window of Opportunity Between Poland and Ukraine’, Ukrainian Quarterly, Vol. LIX, No. 3-4, p. 228.
 Grimsted, P. (2001). Trophies of War and Empire : The Archival Heritage of Ukraine, World War II, and the International Politics of Restitution, Harvard University Press : Cambridge, Mass., p. 427.
 Ibid., p. 398.
 Ibid., p. 287.
 Bilinsky, Y. (2003). ‘60th Anniversary of the Polish-Ukrainian Tragedy of Volyn’, Ukrainian Quarterly, Volume LIX, No. 3-4, p. 236
 Ibid., p. 240.
 Ibid., p.249.
 Renik, K. (2005). ‘Symbolic Reconciliation’, The Warsaw Voice (July 20, 2005).
 Bilinsky, Y. (2003). ‘60th Anniversary of the Polish-Ukrainian Tragedy of Volyn’, p. 253.
 Snyder, T. (2003). Reconstruction of Nations, p. 288.
 Abelsky, P. (2005). ‘Contemporary Russia yearns for the glory days of great empire’, Chicago Tribune (August 7, 2005).
 Baczynski, K.K. (2004). Utwory zebrine, II. (Krakow : Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1994), pp. 49-50. Translated by Alex Kurczaba in The Sarmatian Review Volume 24, Number 2 (April, 2004).
 Champion, M. (2005). ‘Newcomers Pull EU Eastward’, Wall Street Journal (February 17, 2005).
 BBC News (2004). ‘Polish head rejects Putin attack’ (December 23, 2004).
 Janowski, T. and Reiter, N. (2005). ‘Solidarity hailed as inspiration for freedom’, Reuters (August 31, 2005).
 ‘Poland and the World : Strengthening Poland’s Position in the World’ (poland.gov.pl)
 Wolczuk, K. and Wolczuk, R. (2002). Poland and Ukraine : A Strategic Partnership in a Changing Europe ?, Royal Institute of International Affairs : London, p.15.
 Ibid., p. 16.
 Kuzio, T (2004). ‘Poland Lobbies EU Membership for Ukraine’
 Socor, V. (2005). ‘Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine Create Inter-Parliamentary Assembly’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 2, Number 96.
 Guz-Vetter, M. (2004). ‘New EU borders : Poland-Ukraine-Belarus’, Analizy i Opinie, Number 29 (November 2004), Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Warsaw).
 Wolczuk, K. and Wolczuk, R. (2002). Poland and Ukraine, pp. 66-67.
 Ibid., 71.
 Ratajczyk, A. (2005). ‘Poland as a Service Hub’, Warsaw Voice (September 28, 2005).
 Wolczuk, K. and Wolczuk, R. (2002). Poland and Ukraine, pp. 81-86.
 Snyder, T. (2003). ‘Reconstruction of Nations’, p. 265.
 Jerziorski, M. (2006). ‘Gas Pains’, Warsaw Voice (January 11, 2006).
 Popadiuk, R. (1996). ‘Ukraine : The Security Fulcrum of Europe’, Strategic Forum, Number 69.
 Polish Ministry of National Defense, ‘Polish-Ukrainian Peace Force Battalion’ (wp.mil.pl).
 Socor, V. (2005) ‘Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine Create Inter-Parliamentary Assembly’.
 Makarychev, A. (2006). ‘Where the North Meets the East’ : Europe’s Dimensionalism and Poland’s Marginality Strategy, Cooperation and Conflict : Journal of the Nordic International Studies Associate, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 306.
 Reuters News Agency (2005). ‘Ukraine seeks civil role in Iraq after troops leave’ (June 22, 2005).
 Popadiuk, R. (1996). ‘Ukraine : The Security Fulcrum of Europe’.
 The Economist Global Agenda (2005). ‘Return of the Right’ (September 28, 2005).
 Hyde-Price, A. (1996). The International Politics of East Central Europe, p. 8.
 For more on Polish geopolitics and Transatlantic relations, see Omolesky, M. (2006), Polish-American Security Cooperation : Idealism, Geopolitics, and Quid Pro Quo, Dusseldorfer Institut fur Aussen- unt Sicherheitspolitik (https://www.uni-duesseldorf.de/HHU/DIAS/v2/direktorien/ta_rel/060623_54.html).
 Civil Georgia (2005), ‘Full Text : Borjomi Declaration’, http://www.cil.ge/eng/print.php ?id=10542.
 Bilinsky, Y. (2005). ‘How to Keep Open the Window of Opportunity Between Poland and Ukraine’, p. 227.