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Double-Track Asymmetry: Alliances of the Republic of Poland in the 21st Century - Andrzej Dybczyński

In the last quarter century, Poland has been one of the foremost beneficiaries of the post-Cold War international order. Its per capita GDP rose seven-fold and at a rate unknown since the 16th century, what is called “the golden age”, and individual consumption has reached 70% of that of Western Europe. This was accompanied by unprecedented modernisation of state infrastructure and by the development of human capital1. These are unchallengeable facts, even if granting that errors have been made and even if one views with rational criticism the post-1989 changes in Poland and in particular their consequences: the uneven distribution of wealth, emigration running into the hundreds of thousands of young people, or the still-unresolved social problems, and the inflamed internal policy conflicts. In the international dimension, Poland has left the Russian (Soviet) zone of influence and become part of the Western world in the political, economic and institutional sense alike. It is now situated in a civilisationally attractive area that provides a natural environment for the achievement of individual and social aspirations.

What made this success possible was the end of the Cold War and the international order that evolved after it which ensured for Poland about 30 years of uninterrupted development. The last time the country enjoyed such an advantageous combination of internal stability and a high level of international security was 400 years ago. Even more surprisingly, for the first 10 to 15 years after the end of the Cold War, Poland—economically and socially devastated, weak and lacking allies—came out of the communist morass and develop, enjoying as never in its history a prolonged spell of tranquillity.

Now we watch as this interlude draws to an end at an ever-faster rate and with increasingly unpredictable effects. The international order that evolved after the end of the Cold War is crumbling before our very eyes. Three elements of this order—the most important from the Polish perspective—are being destroyed. First, the unquestioned position of the United States as the sole global power both capable and willing to engage in maintaining peace in remote areas or secondary ones (to U.S. interests) is faltering. Second, we are experiencing the decomposition of the European Union, whose elites have yet to show themselves capable of diagnosing the sources of the EU’s ever-deeper internal crisis, not to mention developing and implementing the means to overcome it. Third, after some 20 years of geostrategic decline, Russia has set out to rebuild its international position and to re-impose upon the world the logic of zones of influence, and in pursuit of this aim it does not hesitate to employ any method, be it from the arsenal so ruthlessly used by Lenin and Stalin or from the stock put at Putin’s disposal by modern technology and the open information societies of the West. All three cornerstones of Poland’s security and development in the last quarter century are changing and in a manner extremely disadvantageous for Poland.

At the same time, Poland’s internal situation is becoming increasingly complicated. The mounting internal policy conflicts are about the foundations of the state rather than differences—great or small—of political party programmes. The parties to this conflict perceive each other not so much as political contestants in a democratic political system but as from a Manichean perspective, a battle of good and evil—an approach that in fact denies the rival the right to attain its political aims on the grounds they are prejudiced against the other’s fundamental values, to the essence of Polish interests, or of the Polish raison d’état. Worse still, the negative emotions that go with this conflict—ruthless determination, obstinacy, inability to compromise, and revenge—have been taking ever deeper root. The logic of a natural democratic cycle has given way to the logic of revolutionary change. The fourth cornerstone of Poland’s development in the last quarter century—its internal political stability—is increasingly at risk.

Determinants of Poland’s Alliance Policy

These disadvantageous and largely unpredictable changes in Poland’s internal and external environment impart special relevance to the question about the methods and means to ensure the security of the state in the years to come—security which until now seemed guaranteed2.  One way to achieve this is to conduct an effective alliance policy, understood as selecting allies and building relations with them is such a way that will add to the security of the state and discourage an enemy from open aggression. 

I propose to show in this text the determinants to which Poland’s alliance policy will be subjected in years to come and to express an opinion on how this policy should be shaped. The contents presented here result not only from an analysis of Poland’s security environment and its foreign policy but also from my research into the phenomenon of alliances as such3.

Poland urgently needs to formulate a more sophisticated alliance policy than the existing one. This concerns not so much the choice of allies (in this respect, the room for manoeuvre is relatively limited and the choices fairly obvious) as, first and foremost, the way it functions within existing alliances. So far, Poland’s alliance policy has been conducted in favourable circumstances. First, there has been very broad consensus, domestic and international, on the role and tasks of the alliances of which Poland has been a member. Disputes, if any, have been mild and have not threatened the existence of the alliances as such. Second, errors (if any) made by Poland have not involved the risk of international isolation, abandonment by allies, or entanglement in a situation with no political way out. Both these circumstances have created for Poland’s foreign policy an environment free from real fundamental challenges and threats, a fact reflected by, among other things, the relative tranquillity in which Poland’s elites have been making decisions. Now that both these circumstances are becoming a thing of the past, it is necessary to re-think the Polish alliance policy. This re-thinking should concern methods rather than choice of allies.

This necessity stems from three premises. First, Poland is incapable of thwarting threats on its own and must augment its security to a large extent by participating in international alliances. This is obvious enough to render any further argument superfluous. Second, with Donald Trump president of the U.S., there is the growing likelihood of a powerful shift in American foreign policy towards what I would term a policy of transactional alliances, that is, alliances based not so much on the community of values, vision of the world, or broadly construed interests as on the exchange of various types of goods, be they tangible, political, or even symbolic4.  In my opinion, this shift could be, in equal proportions, a threat and an opportunity for Poland; whether the change in American policy brings us more benefits or more threats will depend on Poland’s skill with “asymmetric transactional alliance” management. Third, I stipulate that the necessity for informed and judicious formulation of Poland’s own alliance policy arises from four handicaps that burden Polish thinking about alliances in general and which reflect powerfully on the Polish elite’s ability to conduct effective alliance policy in the country’s objectively very difficult situation.

First, there is the absence of a tradition of alliance policies resulting from preference rather than necessity. Indeed, the Polish state had not one for 250 years. As a result, the elites operate without familiar models preserved in the institutional memory or which may be referred to. Until 1918, Poland, for obvious reasons, had no alliance policy and indeed could not have had any. Between 1918 and 1945, it had no political option beyond naïve alliances with Western powers or with regional partners. I do not hesitate to use the word “naïve” because these alliances by their nature could not strengthen Poland’s security, either by discouraging aggression or by really defending Poland’s interests. Last but not least, from 1945 to 1989, Poland did not exist as a genuinely independent state capable of conducting a foreign policy of its own, and the Warsaw Pact was an instrument that subordinated the vassal to the sovereign rather than a military alliance of independent states.

The second handicap is the very narrow real choice of alliances that could be effective. Poland’s security policy is shaped along an East-West axis, at the poles of which lie two states definitely stronger than Poland. Attempts to expand the scope for choosing allies beyond the Russia-United States axis will immediately run into formidable challenges pertaining to the credibility of such alternative allies—to the real potential of close ones and to the geographical distance and resulting political will and technical capability to provide support of the remote ones. Solving this problem requires above-average skills in conducting alliance policy.

The third handicap is a mythical romantic perception of alliances shared by a sizable part of the Polish public and, to some extent, by the elites as well. This sentiment comes across in particular in the language of all debates on this subject, with “betrayal”, “faith”, “honour” and “tradition” spoken of much more frequently than (if mentioned at all) “interest”, “gain”, “scenario”, or “alternative”. The Allies betrayed us in 1939 and again in 1945; the Americans (this is my favourite myth!) will stand by us because Kościuszko and Puławski fought for the freedom of the United States and Poland has never abandoned its allies in need. This way of thinking about alliances, besides being unprofessional, is dangerous because it renders impossible the conduct of an unemotional, flexible and rational alliance policy.

The fourth handicap is that there is a deficit of reflection on alliances in the output of Polish “internatiology”. A majority of works—many of them excellent, in particular those written by historians rather than political scientists—are merely in-depth studies of different cases, selected (regrettably) from a very “Polish” perspective. These cases concern alliances directly connected to Polish foreign policy, so naturally it is difficult to obtain a broader perspective, make comparative analyses, articulate new intellectual concepts, or draw on the experience of other states. Take away the works on NATO and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and how many of these studies are left for the Polish reader? How many works are there on the asymmetric alliances of Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, Syria, Finland, Romania, Kuwait, Uruguay, Egypt, or the United Kingdom? How many of these examples can we draw on for ideas and conclusions?

These four handicaps make the formulation of Polish alliance policy a formidable task. Yet, only one of these handicaps—the geopolitical East-West axis along which we must move—is objective and practically insurmountable. The other handicaps can be overcome if only there is increased analytical and conceptual effort.

Polish Alliance Policy

Poland must be prepared to function primarily in the conditions of an asymmetric alliance (or alliances) in which one of the partners is at least several times more powerful than the other in terms of military potential. In this power pattern, in the event of military conflict the survival of the weaker ally depends on help provided by the stronger one, and pending the outbreak of such a conflict, the sharing of alliance burdens and the contributions to common security are definitely uneven5.
Two sets of asymmetric alliance relationships in which Poland functions are critical to its security for years to come: relations with the United States and with the Baltic states6.  As things stand, the U.S. is the only country realistically capable of strengthening Poland’s defence capability to an extent ensuring its security. As for the Baltic states, they are the most vulnerable NATO members and, because an attack against them directly threatens Poland, I believe that in such a case Poland should be involved fully in their defence7.
This makes the double-track asymmetry referred to in the title of this text a special feature of Poland’s alliance policy. The country’s alliance with the United States is asymmetric, as is the one with the Baltic states. In the latter, the Baltic states are cast in the role of the much weaker military partner8.  One point of interest (and of extreme importance for Poland’s alliance policy) is that, asymmetry being asymmetry, exactly the same rules will govern our relations with the U.S. and with the Baltic states, but in either configuration, Poland plays a different role. Having said that, what asymmetric alliance mechanisms does Poland’s foreign policy need to take into account?

The most important is the alliance dilemma: a member of an alliance (every member of every alliance) must conduct its alliance policy in such a way that, on the one hand, it guarantees that its ally will really provide help and, on the other hand, that no excessive involvement in the pursuit of the ally’s interests is required.

The alliance dilemma springs from a fairly obvious observation: states forming an alliance only have some interests in common while the remaining ones could be at best incompatible and, at worst, conflicting. Poland and the U.S. may share the feeling of being threatened by Russia, but the Iranian or North Korean threat defines the interest of only one of the partners. This breeds two risks for the allies. The first is known as abandonment: it materialises if the partner fails to fulfil its alliance commitments given casus foederis. One of the most common methods of avoiding a situation in which we could be abandoned is far-reaching involvement and assistance in the partner’s interests, with the expectation that the partner will reciprocate. This was the argument for Poland’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, it could come about that a country engages in the pursuit of the ally’s aim to its sole benefit but with which the former does not identify. This situation is known as entanglement. The mechanism is fairly simple: the more a country avoids being abandoned, the more it risks becoming entangled; the more it avoids entanglement, the greater the likelihood of being abandoned. Balancing between these two extremes is a dynamic phenomenon burdened with constant insecurity and the risk of error. Accordingly, decision-makers aim to keep the risk (and errors) at an acceptable level rather than eliminate it, which is impossible anyway.

This phenomenon, characteristic of every alliance, acquires special relevance when the alliance is asymmetric, such as the Poland-USA and Poland-Baltic states alliances. The relevance of the alliance dilemma in an asymmetric relationship results from two factors: one, the uneven distribution of threats and, two, the weaker and stronger partners’ fundamentally different capabilities for balancing the threats. The Russian threat is much graver to Poland than to the United States. On the other hand, it is by far more dramatic for the Baltic states than for Poland. Threat-balancing capabilities are much the same case. The Baltic states have practically none. Poland’s capability for balancing the Russian threat is very small; in fact, it boils down to a discussion on how long it could resist aggression, and at what cost. On the other hand, the United States’ capability obviously makes it possible not only to balance this threat but, beyond that, to effectively retaliate in the event of an attack.

It follows that the weaker ally is sentenced, as it were, to solving the alliance dilemma to its own disadvantage: it must become entangled in the stronger ally’s policy because the risk it would be exposed to abandonment by the protector is utterly unacceptable. As for the protector, it can afford to manage the alliance dilemma very much to its own advantage and to ignore to a certain extent the weaker ally’s needs, for even if the latter reneged on its commitments, the stronger ally’s existential interests would not be threatened.

From this observation, a fundamental conclusion can be drawn regarding Poland’s alliance policy towards the U.S.: given the existing pattern of dependencies, it is only natural that Poland should become entangled in U.S. interests. This is not to say that this is a desirable position or advantageous for Poland. However, it is accepted by necessity—as a necessary evil. The unreflective and occasionally hysterical criticism of it stems either from the cynical exploitation of the limited room for manoeuvre successive governments have had as they shaped Poland’s relations with the U.S., or from common or garden-variety incompetence—ignorance of the fundamental rules by which asymmetric alliances work. Paradoxically, the fact that the new U.S. president presses for a more transaction-oriented alliance construction could be to Poland’s advantage. By emphasising its support for the U.S. or willingness to bear alliance burdens (especially in view of other NATO members’ ambivalent policies), Poland could keep up the American commitment to the defence of Polish interests. One cannot fail to notice, by the way, that as the Trump administration forces West European states to increase spending on common defence capabilities, the resulting increased outlays will objectively contribute to Poland’s greater security.

Could Poland make use of the alliance dilemma-related dependence in its relations with the Baltic states? This seems very difficult in view of their limited capability. Yet in Poland’s alliance policy towards these states, it should expect the Baltic states to strengthen their “special assets”, that is, military or paramilitary capabilities they can develop effectively despite their small overall potential, e.g., capabilities related to cybersecurity or information warfare.

Four factors determine each alliance member’s ability to successfully solve the alliance dilemma: the degree of conflict with an enemy, the availability of alternative solutions, the number of interests shared with the stronger partner, and the weaker partner’s own strength. The more asymmetric the relationship, the greater the significance of these factors. Poland’s alliance policy towards the U.S. and the Baltic states should concentrate around these four factors because this could markedly increase not only the level of Poland’s security but its room for political manoeuvre, in particular in dealings with the much stronger partner. How do these factors influence the capacity for conducting alliance policy and what effects of this policy should Poland aim for?

First, Poland’s room for political manoeuvre is determined by the degree of conflict with the enemy. The lower the level of conflict with Russia, the less necessary it will be for it to become entangled in U.S. policy with a view to securing American support. It follows that it is in Poland’s interest to seek steadily an improvement in its relations with Russia with a view to reducing its dependence on the United States—no matter how difficult this effort will be, how ineffectual, or how inconsistent with the present evaluation of our relations. Whether Poland likes it or not, one of the keys to its relative independence from the alliance with the United States lies in Moscow. An improvement of relations with Russia—and I am fully aware how conflicting the two states’ interests are—could take the form of closing, bypassing, or freezing conflicts irrelevant to Poland’s interests and which are of a symbolic or emotional dimension only (be it the failure to return the wreck of the presidential airplane, the evaluation of events of 80, 100 or 400 years ago, or the support given by Russia to a mass murderer in a failed country south of Turkey). It should certainly give pause to think that Russia so skilfully exploits the area of emotion and symbols to maintain a pre-set level of tension in its relations with Poland. I believe it has been doing this precisely for the purpose of narrowing Poland’s scope for political manoeuvre in relations with other states.

Second, Poland’s alliance dependence on the United States is a function of the alliance alternatives available to it. Poland should be building very strong relations with Germany, based on bilateral rather than multilateral mechanisms. This initially would be a potential alternative and, in the future, a real one to the alliance with the United States. A close military alliance with Germany, crowning strong relations at other levels, should be the foundation of Poland’s long-term security. The arguments for this include both states’ potential (which, it should be noted, are complementary to a high degree), their geographic proximity, the extent of common interests, and cultural, historical, demographic and emotional ties. The building and deepening of such an alliance will expand the room for manoeuvre in Poland’s policy towards the United States, while the negative effects of it (if any) will be relatively easy to foresee and minimise.

Third, the United States’ Polish policy has been, and will be, determined by common interests. Poland should be discovering new fields of these. The more cooperation areas there are, the greater the likelihood of support from the U.S., including (or, perhaps, first of all) under the transactional model of alliance policy. Obviously, creating such areas will be extremely difficult given the disparities of the two states’ potential and the global scope of U.S. interests. Even so, in the dialogue with the American partners, Poland should be particularly sensitive to the needs and requirements articulated by them and, rather than fall in meekly, should analyse these unemotionally and select those offering the chance of establishing lasting and advantageous relations—even when the advantage seems to be somewhat greater for the U.S.

Fourth, and most importantly, the degree of dependence on the ally is a function of one’s own military potential. Poland should be developing its defence capability quickly and decisively, even when the development of industry, or the transfer of technology, falls short of expectations. The Polish political elites must realise the unalterable rule that has governed the operation of all alliances throughout history: a weak ally gets no support. Some 75% of the alliances made in the history of international relations have been reneged on9.  To base a state’s security on promises made in politicians’ offices thousands of kilometres away from the plains of Mazovia or forests of Podlasie shows childish naïveté. The fundamental condition a country must meet to be able to expect real help from an ally is the possession of such military capability of its own to make it possible to resist long enough, or at a high enough cost to the aggressor, to destabilise the international situation. The Polish elites should realise at long last that on the 12th of September 1939 in Abbeville, Daladier and Chamberlain did not betray Poland: they made a decision, rational from their perspective, which was the consequence of Poland’s inability to stand up to the aggressor. It will also be worthwhile to instil this knowledge in Poland’s Baltic allies. What’s more, Poland should be developing, to the best of its ability, certain niche capabilities, technological and military, that could become an important asset in the eyes of the stronger ally. At this point, it is apropos to refer again to “specific assets”, that is, to all those capabilities which the stronger partner cannot have, or has not yet developed, or has developed to an inadequate degree. These capabilities can arise from a specific geographic situation (such as the Redzikowo base), or from the development of selected advanced technologies (graphene , communications, radiolocation) or competences (e.g., information warfare, cybersecurity, special operations).

A modern Polish alliance policy should take into account, much more than to date, the allies’ environments and internal policies because in an asymmetric alliance, the functioning of states becomes largely a function of these. In the case of the weaker partner, internal policy disputes about the cost of such a relationship can translate themselves into an unwillingness to bear alliance burdens, or even into a search for alternative alliances. From the Baltic states’ perspective, an increased Russian threat could result in a total change of their alliance policy and in an attempt to implement a strategy of “bandwagoning” rather than balancing (although the experience of 1940 make this scenario rather unlikely), or at least of appeasement. Poland’s alliance policy towards the Baltic states should at all times be aware of this, just as it should steadily monitor the risk of the emergence of such a scenario as involvement in the defence of their interests increases.

The stronger partner, in turn, can form and maintain an alliance with a weaker one not only because of the community of their security interests but also with a view to attaining two other objectives. First, it could be intent on imposing certain restrictions on the weaker partners’ policy, that is, to subject this policy to a form of oversight and protectorate, so that the weaker partner’s unpredictable conduct does not destabilise the international situation. U.S. diplomacy in particular is no stranger to this mode of employing asymmetric alliances; indeed, it used it successfully in at least several cases (Taiwan before 1954, South Korea and Israel to some extent). Second, in a multilateral alliance, the stronger partner can tighten the relationship with a weaker one with a view to playing this ally off against other allies that refuse to accept its dominant position. American policy has used this mechanism too, vis-à-vis the “letter of the eight” and the Vilnius letter, which were a form of United States pressure on certain allies immediately before the 2003 aggression on Iraq.

From Poland’s perspective, there is a risk that the real intentions of U.S. alliance policy could undergo a transformation: that supporting the security of a weaker ally could be replaced by a policy of subordinating or instrumentalising this ally. Effective or not, such a policy engenders a fundamental threat that the stronger partner (in this case, the U.S.) will reduce its willingness to support the weaker partner (Poland) in the event of danger. In this context, the analysis of intentions and objectives of American alliance policy becomes essential from the perspective of Polish alliance policy.

It is only proper to add to this observation another one, highly relevant to the asymmetric alliance, to wit: the reliability, that is, the ability to discharge alliance commitments, is powerfully determined by the distribution of threats among the allies. Alliances with a relatively even threat distribution are highly cohesive, meaning that the partners are willing to discharge their obligations. Where the distribution of threats is uneven, it very often happens that the less vulnerable partner abandons the more vulnerable one. The uneven distribution of threats is an inherent feature of an asymmetric alliance. This is due not only to the international situation or to the allies’ lesser or greater common benefits but, first and foremost, to the disparity of their potential. As mentioned earlier, both the degree of threat from Russia and the ability to repel the same are diametrically different in the cases of Poland, the U.S., and the Baltic states.

A feedback loop extremely disadvantageous from Poland’s perspective could occur: the uneven distribution of threats and certain aims of U.S. alliance policy could reduce considerably the reliability of the alliance between them. As far as the distribution of threats is concerned, Poland has only limited influence on it, but this factor is at least easily observable. On the other hand, the intentions underlying U.S. alliance policy are not quite so obvious, particularly now that Trump is president, and, what’s more, they could change in quite an unpredictable manner. From these observations follow three important recommendations for Poland’s alliance policy.

First, Polish diplomacy should attach particular importance to analysing the motives of U.S. alliance behaviours. All American moves that suggest the alliance with Poland will be treated as a tool to constrain Polish policy, or that attempts will be made to exploit the alliance in dealings with other partners, should sound a warning that the United States is less willing to discharge its obligations. On the other hand, American conduct evidencing the effort to balance external threats will suggest a greater readiness to help its allies.

Second, Polish foreign policy should—within its limited possibilities—seek to equalise the level (be it low, medium or high) of external threats in its alliance environment. An even distribution of threats will constitute a relatively reliable guarantee of fulfilment of alliance commitments. Poland ought to even out the level of threats to NATO members, which is easier said, than done, of course. Yet, there could be two ways to go about this. First, the tightening of interdependence among the allies would make abandoning Poland in the event of a crisis impossible, or at least very difficult. By analogy, it is due to the strong interdependence among Greece and its European partners arising from the common currency, that is, Greece has not yet been abandoned despite its assertiveness coupled with very grave internal problems. The second way much more offensive in nature: Poland could develop an ability to “spill over” a potential threat to its own military security to the pan-European level by developing a capability for military conflict escalation. Israel is one example of the effectiveness of this policy.

Third, Poland should actively thwart Russia’s attempts at uneven threat distribution. As a theoretician of international alliances, I watch with admiration—and as a Pole, with grave apprehension—how effectively Russia conducts its deliberate threat distribution policy in dealings with NATO members. The Kremlin intends to bring about a corrosion of Alliance obligations within the pact. Formally, these commitments remain very strong, but in the event of casus foederis, they could prove unreliable. A theoretician of alliances cannot help but ponder signals that reveal that the underlying Russian policy of differentiating threat levels shows very thorough knowledge of the mechanisms governing the operation of international alliances. The Russians may not have contributed importantly to the development of alliance theory, but they certainly can read research findings and fashion them into real and effective political strategies.

It follows that Poland’s alliance policy should seek the closest possible cooperation with the Baltic states, as well as with Finland and Romania. What’s more, as the depth, methods, and aims of Russian infiltration of the political systems of Western states are gradually exposed, Poland must define this infiltration as yet another dimension of modern threats to the security and stability of the NATO members—a dimension to be included in the common security policy.

The effectiveness of Poland’s alliance policy will depend on the attainment of two aims. First, on the growth of Poland’s military potential to a level ensuring a defence capability that is real and independent of external factors. Second, on the formulation and implementation of a correct vision of alliance policy, shorn of naïve romanticism and aware of political limitations, which will become a tool with which to strengthen, rather than create, the security of the state. Neither aim is easy to attain and neither has been attained by Poland for over 300 years, but, then, never in this span of time have the conditions for their attainment been as propitious as they are now.

1. Having worked for several years for an international corporation, I have seen some of my Polish colleagues turn down posts in Western Europe for fear that their living standard would go down, and British, Italian or French colleagues come to Poland in search of a higher living standard. These are not common choices, of course, but 15 years ago they would have been unthinkable.

2. It often escapes us that in Poland a generation has entered adulthood for which the question of political or military security is solely and exclusively theoretical, if recognised at all.

3. A. Dybczyński, Sojusze międzynarodowe, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, 2014.

4. More in: R. Kupiecki, “Co dalej po warszawskim szczycie NATO?”, Polski Przegląd Dyplomatyczny, 2017, No. 1, pp. 45–51.

5. This construction is accepted in the literature of the subject; sometimes it is formulated much more precisely, and developed. Cf. I. Arreguín-Toft, How the Weak Win Wars. A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

6. These types of relations are now observable in NATO, even though I see this merely as an institutional reflection of a certain pattern of international relations.

7. I have omitted here other alliances, existing or possible, in which Poland could function. In particular, alliance policy towards Germany would require a separate text, for I believe that a Polish-German alliance should constitute a long-term foundation of Poland’s security. Also, I wish to point out that any alliance formed along the East-West axis (Poland-U.S., Poland-Russia, Poland-Baltic states) is very likely to be asymmetric. The only exception could be a Poland-Ukraine, which however, is difficult to visualise at the moment because of the war in progress in Ukraine and Poland’s international obligations. The situation is less obvious in the case of attempts to form alliances along the North-South axis, which is much less effective from the perspective of Poland’s interests (Poland-Czech Republic or Poland-Slovakia still fall into the asymmetric alliance category, but alliances with Sweden or Romania would be relatively symmetric). Neither do I address an intellectually interesting but politically unfeasible option of an alliance with Russia based on a “defensive bandwagoning mechanism” (Cf. A. Dybczyński, op. cit, pp. 160–162).

8. I deliberately omit the influence of U.S.-Baltic states relations on Poland’s alliance policy, for the sake of simplicity of analysis. 

9. A.N. Sabrosky, “Interstate alliances: Their reliability and the expansion of war”, [in] J.D. Singer (ed.), The Correlates of War II: Testing Some Realpolitik Models, Free Press, 1980, pp. 161–198.

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