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article imageOp-Ed: Putin ‘wanted to split Ukraine with Poland’

By Paul Wallis     Oct 20, 2014 in World
Warsaw - In what can only be described as a major added splash in the murky puddle of Ukraine/Russian relations, it’s been revealed by Polish sources that Vladimir Putin proposed splitting Ukrainian territory between Russia and Poland in 2008.
The proposal was revealed by a former Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski. Mr Sikorski stated that Putin described Ukraine as an “artificial country”. Current Ukrainian territory also includes areas which were formerly part of Poland before World War 2, notably Lwow, known as Liviv, in the northern Ukraine. This area later became part of the Soviet Union. It's unclear if this was the actual proposal made to Poland.
Mr Sikorski has since made statements that the interview at which this information was revealed was “over-interpreted.” Polish relationships with Russia aren’t good at the moment, with disputes over the arrest of men allegedly spying for Russia and diametrically opposite views regarding the Ukraine.
There are a lot of qualifiers to this information — it would be premature to assume this report is strictly accurate. Details are barely sketchy. The information hasn’t been verified by independent sources. It would be absurd to assume that adding some more tarnish to Mr Putin isn’t in the interests of some parties, particularly in pro-Western sectors of Eastern European politics.
That said; the report can’t very well be ignored. The observed fact is that Russia has conducted multiple territorially-oriented operations, including military operations, in recent years. Georgia, Chechnya, and Ukraine are the most obvious of these issues.
What’s really strange about it is the idea of Russia doing any sort of deal with Poland. These two nations have spent a lot of time fighting each other, since the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, in fact, and they’re not historically what you’d call cheerful neighbors. Catherine the Great and Frederick the Great destroyed the former Poland by partitioning it in the late 18th century.
In 1921, the Poles drove out an invading Soviet army and set up what is now the basis of modern Poland. In 1939, the Soviets partitioned Poland with Hitler, which didn’t exactly endear them to the Poles, past or present. Russia also more or less occupied Poland until the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Chummy, they are not, and if the idea was to gain some credibility for the partition of the Ukraine with Polish support, it was never more than a very long shot. The idea doesn’t have a lot of real traction. Polish support for a breakup of the Ukraine would have been extremely unpopular with the EU, a real economic own goal. Moscow wouldn’t have needed to be told that, so why make a proposal that couldn’t fly at all?
Sikorski’s belated efforts to downplay the report may mean that a discussion of territorial issues has received tabloid treatment and been drastically overblown. This may be hype, badly orchestrated hype, at that. What it’s not likely to be is an accurate depiction of Russian foreign policy.
If Westerners are somewhat baffled by Russia’s various moves, territorial and border management issues are routine Russian government preoccupations, and have been since Ivan the Terrible. Russia is traditionally, and sometimes with reason, sometimes not, deeply sensitive to its border situations.
Neither Poland nor the Ukraine could possibly be considered any sort of threat to Russia. NATO and the EU, however, could be, and are, considered economic and military threats, even in an environment where neither has much to gain from a direct confrontation with Russia.
This report, if true, would be dynamite. If not, as seems to be the case on available information, it’s a nuisance for trivia buffs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Vladimir putin, Radoslaw Sikorski, proposal to partition Ukraine, Poland, PolishRussian relations
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