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Adolf Bocheński

The Limits of the Alliance

The first conclusion which we should draw from a review of Polish-French relations is that when national interests demand that the French choose from two allies, where one is stronger and the other is weaker, they will select as their ally against the Germans that candidate which appears to be stronger. It must be admitted that nearly none of the people shaping French policy - with the exception of Napoleon the Third - betrayed this fundamental principle, despite all the other mistakes that were made. Of course, it would be ideal for France if both the stronger and the weaker ally were to defend it in tandem against Germany. However, if they are any conflicts of interests between them, France will support the stronger one against the weaker one rather than the other way around.

May one formulate an indictment of French policy on the basis of this practice? I do not believe so. The sole duty of its policy-makers is to defend France and its wonderful culture against the danger of invasion. We cannot demand that our friends on the Seine exercise greater care for Poland than for France. Nevertheless, this political line of thought does imply a substantial limitation in our alliance. In its current phase of development, the alliance between France and Poland refers solely to the possibility of disputes between Poland and Germany. If Polish-German disputes were to make a dramatic reappearance force on the diplomatic scene, one may be assured that Poland would receive diplomatic support from France. We write diplomatic as military support would not be so certain. It is difficult to ascertain whether this support would go hand in hand this time around with attempts to impose upon the Republic that type of care which was exercised in Warsaw during the time of Napoleon p. Serr. It is also difficult to specify to what extent the Briand flirtation between France and Germany would be reborn as a result of rejuvenated Polish-German antagonism. Nevertheless, it does appear to be certain that French diplomatic support from France for Poland in the event of a conflict with Germany would be unquestionable. In turn, when speaking of all the other problems in Polish foreign policy - support from our western ally would be doubtful at best. When looking at the disputes that may arise with Russia for instance, we may be assured that France would take sides with its stronger ally rather than with the party which it considers to be weaker.

In 1920, General Weygand and many other French officers came to Poland to provide military assistance in the struggle with Soviet Russia. Of course, this assistance did not equal the assistance which Denikin, Wrangiel, and Kołczak received. This matter appears before us in a strang light when we compare the efforts taken by the allies to keep the Czech legions fighting in Kołczak?s White Army in Siberia with the ridiculously weak and unsuccessful intervention to induce Czechoslovakia to allow ammunition to be transported to Poland. Such was the case when White Russia, with whom France wanted to undertake an alliance, did not even exist. Today, however, it is natural that France is more interested in Russian assistance than back then. France is more interested in Russian assistance - as well as in Polish assistance. In 1920 General Weygand and his comrades exerted themselves to prevent the appearance of the Red Army in Germany. We may be sure that today, if there were to be serious armed conflict in Europe, General Braconnier and his comrades would do everything in their power to see the Red Army show up in Germany.

That France is more interested in the assistance of the Soviet troops and airplanes than Polish ones does not at all mean that France would defend Russia more energetically than Poland in case of danger. We believe that in light of the emotions present in France today it is simply impossible to believe that this country - unless it were itself attacked - would actively defend anyone. This only indicates that it is more important to France that it be protected by the Soviet military than by the Polish military. Therefore, French policy will be against us in all matters where the interests of the Republic stand in conflict with the appearance of the Soviet military in Central Europe. We are not only speaking of an eastern pact allowing Soviet troops to cross our territory. The possibility of a land link between the USSR and Czechoslovakia is of fundamental concern to France. A French policy supporting Titulescu?s efforts to permit the Soviet Army to traverse Romanian territory would undoubtedly be in conflict with Poland?s interests. From this point of view, there is a basic conflict between Polish-Romanian cooperation and Romanian-French cooperation.

For all those who believe in ?eternal peace" on our eastern border and in the good ?vulę" of the Prague Castle, these matters do not carry much weight. Indeed, there were editors who predicted permission for the Soviet military to march across Poland. However, we must take into consideration the operational extent of the Polish-French covenant as a serious limitation. And thus limiting of the Polish-French alliance exclusively to possible Polish-German disputes best situates it in our political system. This is an incomplete alliance which refers only in part to the Republic?s political challenges and is in open conflict with other challenges. Only the division of Russia into several nation states could make this alliance complete and cause France to care truly more about Polish assistance than Russian assistance. For now, it is not in the least the only issue for Poland, an issue on which everything else should depend. It is merely an important link in our political chain. Yes. One of the links.

The second statement which we must put forth here as pertains to the Polish-French covenant does not have such a direct link to the historical review engaged in above. It will be, nonetheless, entirely intelligible and certain for every one who knows even the slightest bit about contemporary France. France?s relationship to its allies is more passive today than active. France is a country that is too civilized and too democratic for it to be able to decide with ease to make haste in providing armed assistance to its allies who are threatened by Germany. Everyone who spent time in France between 1926 and 1930 knows full well what emotions could be encountered with regards to the possibility of an armed conflict between Poland and Germany. The stance taken by the French to the Pomaranian problem was in fact repugnant and disgusting. The French began to express greater interest in Gdynia and Pomarania when the Germans ceased to pose a serious threat to this province and became more interested in their own Rhine provinces. It is difficult however to expect that the revival of German-Polish antagonism would not produce this attitude once again. Any French government, which would have ordered the mobilization of troops to defend Poland between 1927 and 1930, would have been brought down within 24 hours.

When Franclin-Bouillon asked Arystydes Briand in Parliament at this time what the government would due if hostilities broke out between Poland and Germany, Briand retorted ?The Government of the Republic of France would do everything to restore peace". This passive attitude embodied by France in its relationships to its allies is directed not only to Poland, but also to Russia and Czechoslovakia to a similar degree. Those standing on the banks of the muddy Mołdan River [Praque] are only too aware of this fact today. France may serve its allies with loans, it may assist them with diplomatic intervention, e.g. in the Apostolic See where it is especially welcome. One must, however, bid farewell to the hope of obtaining anything more.

The Polish-French alliance could become a full alliance in the event of Soviet Russia collapses and our rival at the Quai d?Orsay were to disappear and once a younger generation more capable of warring efforts replaces the generation which witnessed a world war. Both these processes will certainly come to pass. Until such a time we may attach only that weight to a alliance with France which it actually represents. Most importantly strengthening or weakening of the Polish-French alliance is only minimally dependent upon Poland?s attitude towards France. Jan Kazimierz wrote Ludwig XIV full of unheard of humility letters. Yet Ludwig XIV did not hesitate to forsake such a gracious partner when he spied advantageous allies. The fate of Poland?s traditional alliance with France depends to a large extent on the result of the historic antagonism between Poland and Russia. To the extent Russia breaks up into several nation states, the future of the Polish-French pact will be assured. But if the balance of force returns to the norms of the 18th and 19th centuries, or even remains unchanged, one should be rather pessimistic.

Marshall Rydz Śmigły?s trip to Paris was a great triumph. And it did not occur after a period of great back-peddling on the part of Poland in favor of French politics. We could not have even dreamed of such a trip if Mr. Zaleski had been running Poland?s foreign policy. It would be naive presumption to say that French politics may maner in basic issues depending on Poland?s lesser or greater acquiescence. These things depend on international constellations, or on great historical changes. The politics of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs are something great and wonderful. It is difficult to resist the urge to admire such an excellent tool for expressing the state?s right of being, the result of which is the French career. A large number of more or less important factors is at play in these politics. One of these factors is the relationship with Poland, which is tighter or looser, depending upon the circumstances. Polish politics in turn are also a plethora of factors where relations with France are only one of many. That is why it would be nonsense to subordinate everything to the concept of a French alliance - which, by the way, will not improve even slightly as a result of such subordination. In general, the most important matter for the Republic of Poland is its relation with its neighbors, and above all, the issue of Russian-German antagonism. On the one hand, postulates pertaining to Poland?s relations with its neighbors seem to be congruent with certain tendencies in French politics, and the dry framework of an alliance is suddenly filled with lively contents. And on the other hand, they diverge once again - we cannot subordinate our most vital matters to the myth of a traditional alliance, nor may we demand that France contradict its reason of being.

See: Między Niemcami a Rosją , p. 78?83


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