Careful observation of Central and Eastern European history points to the fact that the two decades between the end of the First World War and the Munich Conference were critical for nation-state formation in that region due to the collapse of the two imperial hegemons – the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Tsarist Russia. In 1938 Germany and the Soviet Union, however, began to polarise the region once again. The state formation experience was, nevertheless, extremely valuable. This became apparent during the second 20-year (1989-2009) period of great “thawing,” after the USRR weakened and ultimately collapsed.
In the post-Versailles era, Polish leader Józef Piłsudski proposed to the authorities of Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus to forge an Intermarium union for the survival of their states. Piłsudski risked and pushed forward an intellectual speculation on how to strengthen subjectivity and sovereignty of the “young” states in games between major powers. From the perspective of time, this speculation can hardly be defined as a real-life success.
With US President Donald Trump’s visit in Poland, the brand of the Three Seas Initiative gained international reputation. In Poland where the roots of the initiative began, the Three Seas or – as one can Latinise it, Trimarium – initiative is often confused with the historical project of Intermarium, intuitively understood by many. Not only journalists but also politicians and even public officials contribute to the confusion. Well, they are wrong.
- Published on Thursday, 06 July 2017 13:09
- Category: Intermarium
- Written by Kostiantyn Fedorenko and Andreas Umland
Neither the European Union nor NATO will any time soon be able to fill the security vacuum they have left with their hesitant policies in the grey zones of Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus. Both organisations have, in the past, amply demonstrated their inadequacy as strategically thinking and geopolitically resolute actors. Against this background, some post-Soviet politicians, diplomats and intellectuals are starting to discuss alternative options to, at least partially, increase their countries’ security. The most prominent among these concepts is the creation of a so-called “Intermarium coalition”.
It was appropriate enough that Warsaw should host a conference on the theme of Intermarium, the idea being primarily of Polish origin and promoted heavily by Polish interwar leader Józef Piłsudski, who believed that rebuilding Polish independence was not the sole action of one country and that is was in the interests of a chain of independent states to pool their aspirations. His fears for the nations standing alone, sandwiched between Germany and Russia were, as it turned out, entirely justified – in the area which became Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands. If Intermarium for the 20th century was a Poland-centred concept, Intermarium for the 21st century would be a Ukraine-focused enterprise. For Ukraine now, as for Poland then, this is a question of the country’s survival as a state. As keynote speaker Andreas Umland of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Co-operation in Kyiv elaborated, Ukraine is also uniquely significant in the Baltic-Black Sea region as events there have an effect beyond the non-EU/NATO, the so-called “grey zone”. The difficulty at present of evaluating the concept is that the Intermarium, at this stage, is no more than an idea.