(Opinion) The Polish-German geostrategic rivalry for influence over Central & Eastern Europe (CEE), which is a significant proxy theater for their larger rivalry over the future of the EU as a whole, has returned as a result of the latest US-provoked phase of the Ukrainian conflict.
Its seeds were already sown several years prior, though, after Germany joined the US to wage a joint Hybrid War on Poland aimed at punishing its ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS per its Polish abbreviation) party for its conservative-nationalist values that have since proven to have been largely superficial due to its stance towards refugees.
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The US has since jumped ship from that particular Hybrid War campaign for the most part by now tacitly siding with Poland in its Hybrid War on Germany.
Washington and Warsaw aim to bankrupt Berlin after tricking its leaders into supporting the counterproductive anti-Russian sanctions that eliminate the economic dimension of its strategic autonomy and thus perpetuate America’s recently restored hegemony over Europe.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki very strongly implied to German media during his exclusive interview with Der Spiegel that Warsaw is indeed challenging Berlin all across Europe, which is one of the most high-profile confirmations yet of this newly returned historical fault line.
Of pertinence to the argument that the Polish-German geostrategic rivalry veritably exists, it should be pointed out that Morawiecki contrasted his country’s immediate and comprehensive support for Kyiv with its neighbor’s comparatively much more sluggish and partial aid.
According to him, “Berlin’s hesitation, its inaction, seriously calls into question the value of the alliance with Germany. And we are not the only ones saying that. I am hearing this from quite a few other heads of government in Europe, as well.”
This hints that many CEE leaders are criticizing Germany behind Berlin’s back, suggesting that they’re all conspiring to various extents to collectively expand their influence at this unofficial EU leader’s expense.
It was predictable that Poland would seek hegemony over the “Three Seas Initiative” (3SI) states, and it’s making progress.
Despite some significant setbacks in the de facto confederation that it agreed to with Ukraine in late May, this aspiring CEE leader has nevertheless succeeded in organizing an emerging coalition of sorts around itself.
Most of this setback were brought about by Germany exploiting Poland as its puppet in that former Soviet Republic until Warsaw finally wised up to the game being played against it.
It masterfully manipulated perceptions about the conflict to expose German values as hypocritical, which weakened its rival’s soft power and thus strengthened its own by contrast.
Furthermore, Morawiecki reiterated his country’s twisted position towards Germany’s prior energy cooperation with Russia in his latest interview to misportray it as having “inflicted tremendous damage on Europe.”
These factors combined resulted in the Polish premier bragging to his interlocutor about the Visegrad-centric regional coalition that it’s assembled with Bulgaria and Romania.
Despite not mentioning the Baltic States, they’re also part of this emerging center of influence.
As for Hungary, however, it’s at odds with Poland’s divergent approaches to Russia.
Even so, there’s no doubt that Poland is on the rise as a regional European power, which it’s taking maximum advantage of to assault German prestige on all fronts.
The latest move is its reparations demand, which Morawiecki said he’ll seek Israeli support for.
He also promised, “We will go all around the world to present the report, which considers human and material losses and cultural assets.”
In other words, he’s turning this into a global campaign against German soft power that’s being waged from a compelling moral angle to deal a death blow to Berlin’s image.
Observers shouldn’t forget, however, that geopolitical motives are behind these demands.
Poland’s attempts to revise one of the ultimate outcomes of World War II are aimed at opening Pandora’s Box along its eastern borders to stir trouble with Russian-allied Belarus while accelerating its de facto confederation with Ukraine.
Moreover, they could also lead to copycat claims from Warsaw’s new CEE “junior partners”, all with the intent of creating a critical mass of anti-German sentiment for challenging Berlin at the EU level.
Altogether, the importance of Morawiecki’s latest interview with Der Spiegel lies with the heavily implied intent that he conveyed to that leading publication about Poland’s plans to comprehensively challenge Germany for leadership of CEE and the EU as a whole.
This historical European fault line has once again returned to the attention of observers after it became impossible to deny following the Polish leader’s sharply worded condemnation of Germany.
It remains unlikely that this rivalry will turn hot yet again, though that doesn’t mean that it still might not destabilize Europe in its way.
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