I imagine this may go unnoticed outside Poland, so I’d like to give heads up to all of you interested in the rather never officially undisclosed/confirmed circumstances around the beginning of the full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine from Polish perspective (mainly).
Just recently a book came out titled “Polska na wojnie” (eng. Poland at war) which is a mash up of interviews that the author (journalist Zbigniew Parafianowicz) made with several high ranking members of Polish government and presidential office, as well as army/special forces officers, with some additional comments from their Ukrainian counterparts. They all remain anonymous, for obvious reasons, but the story checks out with what we’ve learned in the past.
Anyway, it surely made a splash here (Poland), because it’s full of spicy details (for Polish and possibly Ukrainian readers) but there are some, that may be interesting for everybody else.
The talk is about the onset of coming war and the following months and gives some very interesting insight into the backstage, and especially Polish-Ukrainian relations and cooperation. Below a couple of quotes from the book as reference (throw it into google translator), but I’ll give you some of the interesting snippets:
1. Polish government was seriously concerned that Lukashenka will join the war, and was preparing a scenario in which anti-regime diversion groups would be sent to the Belarusian army rear to wreck havoc. In the end, Lukashenka was so afraid himself, that through various channels made inquires to Warsaw, if they’d let him pass the border and then to fly away from the closest airport. He knew if things went south for him, Russians would not let him lift into his own airspace.
2. Polish special forces were securing Ukrainian delegates that were attending negotiations in Belarus (March 2022). They were escorting them in helicopters that landed on Belarusian soil and took them out when they were done. Also, by a coincidence (they were training Polish specials), Polish commando forces were present at the facility in Brovary (Kyiv suburbs), when the war erupted. They stayed on longer, gathering intel. A British unit is also reported doing the same.
3. Despite Russian propaganda, while Poland never even thought about using the opportunity to reclaim Lviv (Lwów), it remained a concern for Ukrainians. Warsaw told their partners – we will be with you till the end, as long as you keep on fighting. Together with the unconditional help that was immediately provided on many levels, it convinced Ukrainians about the sincerity of Polish intentions. As a side note: Dmytro Kuleba with his whole family (and dog) was received by his Polish counterpart – Zbigniew Rau at his private home, where they could wait out the critical time period. Similar proposals were made to Ukrainians Danilov and Sybiha.
4. On the 25th of March brand new Polish Boeing 737-800 NG had an emergency landing while on the way to Jasionka (Rzeszów) to a meeting with president Biden. President Duda and gen. Andrzejczak were on board. The cause of near-death experience (how passengers described it) was a faulty trimmer which malfunctioned forcing the pilots to fight with the steering handles. Luckily the plane landed safely and the delegation quickly changed their plane to another one, continuing the trip. Nevertheless, at the time possible sabotage or assassination attempt was one of the probable causes that were being investigated.
5. Americans were convinced that Kyiv will fall within 3 days and prepared to evacuate 40k people, presumably apart from own US citizens, also whole Ukrainian political elite and establishment. Jake Sullivan was the most skeptical about Ukraine’s chances, and argued about that with Jakub Kumoch (presidential secretary) who was convinced UA will prevail. Later on, from the same reasons US remained reluctant to provide additional help in the form of heavy equipment. Washington agreed for providing tanks after Biden-Duda meeting, which Warsaw insisted on doing asap (a batch of T72’s followed soon afterwards paving the way), but they were still sending mixed signals about transfer of fighter jets. Warsaw wanted US on board, as it needed it to be an allied effort in order to shield Poland from possible Russian retaliation.
In the end, Warsaw got tired US indecision and reluctance, and acted independently. Dismantled around 10 Polish MIG-29 fighter jets and left them in parts, in a forest belt near the border. Kyiv was notified about “ownerless” parts, which were then picked up and quickly assembled on the Ukrainian side of the border. That happened months(!) before the official transfer of jets in a larger international coalition.
There is more. A trip of Roman Abramovich through Poland and then to Turkey, that was supposed to be an attempt of reaching out to Russians through unofficial channels, or how Poland used specially created private companies to bypass bureaucracy when transferring military goods. It also has a significant chapter about why Polish-Ukrainian relations on the governmental level blossomed for a year, but then started to wither due to European power-politics, personal ego-trips and internal affairs in both countries. Particularly, chancellor Scholz and president Zelensky receive a bit of a whipping for their behavior.
Edit: Ah yes, I forgot the topic of rocket that fell on Polish village of Przewodow, killing two. All the gathered material (the rocket parts itself) indicate that it was indeed of Ukrainian origin. The stubbornness with which Kyiv insisted it was Russia, despite no evidence was provided became one of the reasons why the relations cooled down.
But I will leave that and the rest of the book for you to find out.
Comment: Maybe not so much a review, but an introduction. The reviewer, FilipDąb-Mirowski, is a Polish international affairs commentator and publicist. The book is not available in English, but I found a source for an e-book version. I might spring for the 25 złotys and read it myself.
I find the subject fascinating. The blurb from the book cover reads, “What happened in the Presidential Palace in the Polish services and army after the explosion in Ukraine? Has there ever been real friendship between Andrzej Duda and Volodymyr Zelensky? How did petty conflicts enter the common game after several months and what resulted from it?” It takes me back to my days of collecting this kind of information as a case officer. Those were interesting times as well.
All this supports my long held belief that an Eastern European alliance will arise to supplement or even supplant the NATO alliance. Maybe the Three Seas Initiative will become this alliance. Maybe not. But the core of this alliance will be a strong military and political defense against Russian aggression.