The US Secretary of State’s visit to Poland was an opportunity to criticise the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Prime Minister’s advisor reveals how Poland wants to sign up to the plan to change the status quo in the region under the auspices of Americans – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
Nord Stream 2 and Central and Eastern Europe
No new declarations were made about Nord Stream 2 during the talks between Secretary Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz on 27th January. Both politicians stressed that the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would increase the dependence of Central and Eastern Europe on Russian gas, and thus on Russian politics. The Americans have pledged to help reduce it by supplying liquefied gas. There were no new declarations on this issue though.
However, the context of the talks is important because on 29th January the US State Department will decide which of the new sanctions against Russia proposed by the Senate will be implemented. The list includes, among others, restrictions for participation in projects involving Russians such as Nord Stream 2 protested by Austria and Germany, whose leading gas companies are financially involved in this project, and more broadly in the plan to create an economic symbiosis with Russia based on the country’s cheap deposits and western technology.
It is unclear whether the Americans will decide to impose new sanctions on Nord Stream 2. However, it is known that Poland is signing up to their plan to revise the status quo in the region. This is to be supported, among other things, by the Three Seas Initiative, which is intended to enable greater integration of Central and Eastern European countries within the European Union, of which one of the pillars is the integration of the gas markets and their raw material supply from the USA, which was discussed by President Donald Trump at the Warsaw summit.
In this context, the words of Wojciech Myślecki, Prime Minister’s advisor on economic affairs, are significant. They were written down by the partner website WszystkoCoNajważniejsze.pl. Although the vision of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s team has not yet dominated the government policy, it is heading in this direction. This is evidenced by what Myślecki said about the inevitable generational change in the power camp. He heralds the succession of Morawiecki after the camp leader Jarosław Kaczyński, which may not be liked by other party factions, but is possible. This would be the announcement of a march by the current ruling team for new terms of office thanks to the succession of the current Prime Minister as the camp leader. It is not known what the representatives of other factions in the team think about such a vision. However, the certainty of victory in the next election presented by the Prime Minister’s advisor is surprising taking into account that he is an analyst.
Vision of Poland in Europe
His words on the role of Poland in Europe and, more generally, in the West are important. According to Myślecki, Poland’s growing assertiveness in the European Union will be associated with attempts to limit its margin of manoeuvre by Germany. It is an opportunity to criticise the political elites in Poland who, in his opinion, have been bred for pro-German by means of lavish grants from abroad. This is to be seen in the confrontational attitude of the European Commission. – Since 1990, Poland has been supported by Germany, technically and economically civilised, but set up as a complementary state, a state without identity – claims the Prime Minister’s advisor. This was to serve the purpose of making our country a transmission lane between Germany and Russia.
However, it is exactly the plan of the USA that can change this situation, and that is what Morawiecki’s team is clearly counting on. – However, Germans and Russians did not foresee that the Americans would export energy fuels and prepare to supply the friendly countries of the European Union with gas and oil supplies. They chose the Baltic Sea and the North Sea as a distribution point. This is a huge, historic opportunity for Poland to strengthen its presence in the West, without getting blurred in the Eurasian zone – as seen by Myślecki. – If pipelines to the south with American oil or gas are routed via Poland and tankers and container ships sail to the Danube via Oder, a completely new situation will emerge – the march from north to south begins.
Therefore, the vision presented by the Prime Minister’s advisor assumes diversification based on American hydrocarbons, the heralds of which are contracts for their supply with the USA signed by PGNiG, Lotos Group, and PKN Orlen, as well as a combination of river systems on the north-south axis, as announced by the government’s plan of inland navigation. Both initiatives are part of the American plans to empower Central and Eastern Europe in order to balance German-Russian cooperation. In this context, it is worth noting that Myślecki is a critic of the expansion of the Ostrołęka Power Plant and the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland. We do not know how his views will translate into the energy strategy of the Republic of Poland, which we have been unable to adopt for two years.
From a foreign policy point of view, Myślecki’s vision is not a new line in relation to that presented by Witold Waszczykowski, the dismissed Minister of Foreign Affairs. Anti-German accents are strong, however, and they are absent from the current line of the new minister Jacek Czaputowicz. Instead, there is a pro-European accent. – We cannot afford conducting false policies and false disputes with the European Union. Let us have a dispute about the directions of strategic development of North-South or East-West Poland or about the shape of the Union – claimed Myślecki.
It is unclear to what extent the vision of the Prime Minister’s advisor coincides with the actual policy of the government, and to what extent it is a postulate to be pushed through at the expense of the point of view of political factions other than Morawiecki’s team.
No positive offer is available
However, it is an interesting proposal to build a more unilateral Polish policy in Europe at the expense of relations with Germany, and in favour of relations with the USA. It is unclear whether, in the long term, for example after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Americans will still be willing to support Poles at the expense of the Germans. However, it is worth taking advantage of their involvement in the region, which was not expected by analysts announcing an American return to Asia during Barack Obama’s presidency. Nevertheless, the role of the US should not be overestimated, and the value of the European Union should not be downgraded.
The plan presented by Myślecki will review the US policy after the end of the administration’s term of office of Trump and Morawiecki. In Poland’s efforts, it should not be forgotten that the modernisation of Polish infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, was to a large extent funded by the European Union. It is good that in the Three Seas initiative there is a strong emphasis on the nature of integration within Europe, and not as an alternative to the EU. If we want to play against Berlin, it is worth having Brussels on our side. It is also worthwhile to have a plan B if the Americans decided not to favour Poland at the expense of Germany in the long term.
This has been done, for example, in the case of the controversial Nord Stream 2 project. In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, I explained why Warsaw and the European Commission are together in this matter. They should also work together in other areas so that Germany cannot impose its point of view in Europe without a concession. An interesting postulate of the Croatian President was the EU fund for the elimination of differences in infrastructure development between “old Europe” and the so-called Three Seas. It is worth fighting for. However, it is not worthwhile weakening its actions in Brussels through image catastrophes, which may be less numerous with the new government team. It is also high time to end the dispute over the judiciary. According to Myślecki’s vision, who I consider to be the Polish Prime Minister’s spokesperson, there is no idea for reforming the European Union, which would be a positive offer directed at the Old Continent. After all, Poland promised to present it.