The President of the United States of America flies into Poland this month. Not to Germany or France or even the UK. There is great symbolism in this gesture, which goes further than Washington merely showing solidarity to the front-line states in Russia’s war against Ukraine. It is emblematic of a trend which has seen Europe’s geopolitical fulcrum shift eastwards.
Once upon a time Europe’s centre of gravity was west of the Elbe. This was underlined by the reality of the Cold War, by economic might, by western Europe’s military ascendancy reinforced by the United States’ physical presence, and by the western focus on European integration.
This remained so in the early post-Cold War era with central and eastern European states flocking to join the European communities. The asymmetry was reinforced culturally as an increasingly hegemonic western-led European Union spread its integrationist and progressive values across central and eastern Europe with little regard for national traditions, cultures and, more importantly, local peoples’ wishes. The result has been a stand-off in recent years between the cultural and political alliance of Visegrad states (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia) and western member states intent on maintaining a vision of post-nationalism that arguably disguises western dominance.
Poland has emerged as the spokesman of the Visegrad states. It has the EU’s fifth largest population (38 million); its sixth biggest economy; and has a dynamic pro-Nato, pro-US foreign and defence policy. This contrasts with the incessant and fruitless French-led wishful thinking about a common European foreign and security policy, and its desire for a European army. Poland has been increasingly forceful in contesting and counterbalancing the EU’s western domination. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and Poland’s robust support of Kiev contrasts with Macron’s ambivalence and Scholz’s evasiveness.
A correction is long overdue.