AT THE outbreak of the Great War in 1914, a war destined to change the whole aspect of the world, not one of the belligerent nations had any serious notion of restoring political independence and territorial unity to the Polish nation. When the war was over there stood Poland, a free and independent country. How could such an extraordinary thing ever have come about? To whom, to what, does Poland owe her return to the family of free nations?

To her inner sturdiness, first of all. In the spirit Poland never died. She survived all oppressions, she rose triumphant over all efforts to break her to pieces. She accomplished a social regeneration through the rise of a national bourgeoisie. She achieved economic prosperity. She increased her population. There were 8,000,000 Poles at the time of the third dismemberment (1795). There were 25,000,000 in 1914. At the critical moment, the Polish nation dashed with irresistible spontaneity into independence, finding leaders equal to the historic task which was set them. The world at large was not at all aware of the rich vitality of Polish life during the nineteenth century, and especially during the decades just previous to the outbreak of the Great War. France and the Anglo-Saxon countries knew virtually nothing of Poland. And not even Germany and Russia, who had greater reason to keep in touch with what was going on among their unwilling subjects, were any better informed.

It is true, nevertheless, that Poland would never have experienced her resurrection if it had not been for the concurrence of a number of extrinsic factors. Of these I will emphasize four, two of them operating negatively, two positively.

It will be remembered that during the first days of the war, and notably on August 14, 1914, Russia made an appeal to the heart of the Polish nation. It was not a disinterested appeal, it was a mere politico-military manœuvre. All the same, it served to formulate the Polish question. No one is master of the imponderables in history. They "broke" in Poland's favor. This happened again with the Russian Revolution later on. One would hardly say that that cataclysm was altogether unforeseen. However, from the Polish point of view it came at the best imaginable moment. Further, there were grave mistakes in German policy during the war and these also contributed to the liberation of Poland. Such a mistake was made when, guided by selfish calculation, and setting a low estimate on Polish shrewdness, Germany tried to muster recruits from Poland by instituting (November 5, 1916) what was called a Polish state but which lacked the qualities of statehood.

The basic positive factor in the restoration of Poland was a development of moral ideas in Europe -- the triumph of the principle that all civilized nations should be free, and the belief that this was one of the conditions essential to a durable peace. Cracking under her war effort, in which her appetite showed itself much stronger than her stomach, Tsarist Russia dropped from the Allied ranks. But her place was taken by the United States, and the deeper meaning of the war seemed to come to the fore. It was thenceforward to be a struggle for deliverance. In order for that principle to triumph, however, the Allied and Associated Powers had to win a victory in the field. That victory figured in a very direct manner in the restoration of Poland. All the same, the Allies made no formal adoption of the Polish cause till June 3, 1918. That was five months after the formulation of President Wilson's thirteenth Point. It came, that is, at a time when the Polish cause was bound to win, whatever happened.

Truths of yesterday, these! If I advert to them, it is in order to bring out certain of their implications for the future. We are not forgetful of the fact that the United States, speaking through the lips of President Wilson, was more influential than any other Power in fixing the status of Poland in this new Europe, a Europe by all odds better than the Europe prior to 1914. We also remember that once she felt herself "freed of the so-called help of her ally, oppressive Russia" (words of Clemenceau), France worked for the reconstitution of an independent and practicable Poland. Yet how forget that as late as March 11, 1917, in virtue of a secret agreement negotiated by M. Gaston Doumergue and signed by the late Aristide Briand, France found herself obliged to refer the fate of Poland to the good pleasure of Tsarist Russia? We have a kindly thought for Great Britain too, though down to the first weeks of 1917 she maintained a prudent reserve on the matter of Poland's future, and later on, less out of animosity or prejudice against Poland as such than in deference to her time-honored attitude toward affairs on the Continent, she opposed the creation of a Poland that would be great and strong, because such a Poland, in the eyes of Lloyd George, would, unfortunately, be the natural ally of France! As regards Italy, that country had itself been born of the principle of nationality, and it was fighting in the war for the completion of its national unification. Italians therefore looked upon the Polish cause with brotherly sympathy. But at the Peace Conference, Italy was preoccupied with her own frontiers, and she played in everything touching Polish affairs a decidedly subordinate rôle.

The Polish people cherish sentiments of unalterable gratitude toward the nations that lent her effective assistance in her great labor of restoration. But they cannot overlook the fact that the only disinterested help came from the United States, a country that withdrew completely from European affairs the moment the Peace Treaties were concluded. As for the friendships and alliances that may have been offered to Poland, or which she may have concluded in Europe, they have been altogether determined by the respective interests of the contracting parties. Those interests may evolve, and, more than that, they may be variously interpreted. That is only natural. The foreign policy of a nation is not a mere whim meandering along the surfaces of life. It is not the caprice of a man or a party. It is the manifestation from day to day of the instinct of self-preservation. It is the composite result of the moral, geographic, demographic and economic pressures amidst which the nation lives and grows. The foreign policy of Poland is subject to those laws.


It is Poland's destiny to be situated between Germany and Russia and to have to live independently of both of those two powerful neighbors. That fact is basic in the whole foreign policy of Poland. It determines her relations to her other neighbors. It has its influence on the ties that exist or may exist between Poland and the Great Powers that are neighbors of Germany and Russia.

On the matter of the Polish question during the war, Germany wavered between two policies, the one looking to a separate peace with Russia at the expense of Poland, conformably with the traditions of Frederick the Great and Bismarck; the other looking to the crushing of Russia and the creation of a buff-erstate in Poland, conformably with the German patriotic traditions of the first half of the nineteenth century. The policy on which Imperial Germany finally settled was an unusual combination of the two mutually contradictory policies. Since the war, the Germans have sometimes pretended that they are the real liberators of Poland and they even go so far as to accuse the Poles of ingratitude. It is true enough that in the course of the war hundreds of thousands of German soldiers died on Polish soil. But they died in furtherance of an anti-Polish policy, and had they been victorious there would have been no free and united Poland.

The Germans had been brought up on history as it was taught in the Bismarckian school and they thought of a really independent Poland as a calamity. They could not believe in the permanence of the state of things that came into being in 1918 on their Eastern frontiers. Most of the leaders of the Weimar Republic thought of the new Poland as an accident and spoke of her as a "temporary" state (Saisonstaat). One of the main objectives of the policy launched at Rapallo was to make that temporary period as brief as possible. On assuming the ambassadorship to the Soviet Union in 1922, Count von Brockdorff-Rantzau voiced the opinion that "it might be possible to repair at Moscow the damage that had been done at Versailles." Indifferent to the strange contradiction between that attitude and the principles on which its own existence was grounded, the Weimar Republic strove to prevent the consolidation of Poland in every way possible. It was always arousing opinion against Poland abroad and causing as much trouble to her as it could at home. That tactic undoubtedly worried Poland, but it did not affect her firm resolve to stand her ground. In another direction it actually was a help to Poland. It stimulated her business men to take advantage of her outlet to the sea, hastening the construction of the port at Gdynia and promoting new industries. As the ancient bonds between German and Polish lands were severed, Poland's economic and political independence was more and more emphasized.

The Weimar Republic devised nothing new in the matter of German-Polish relations. It continued purely and simply the old policy of territorial expansion at the expense of another people belonging to another race and of the same level of civilization. In a letter to the Crown Prince dated September 7, 1925, Stresemann categorically declared that "rectification of the eastern frontiers of the Reich, recovery of the Polish Corridor and of Danzig, and alterations in the boundary lines of Upper Silesia" were outstanding items in the list of Germany's territorial demands. In 1931 Chancellor Briining began applying himself to the execution of that program. He sounded out Paris, London and Rome to see just how far territorial revision at the expense of Poland could be made acceptable to those capitals.

Has there been any change in the status of German-Polish relations since January 30, 1933? Most certainly. The great idea of Chancellor Hitler is to build a Third Reich, nationally unified, embracing all territories bordering on Germany where compact masses of German population are to be found. This unification cannot be carried out apart from some central idea that is capable of appealing to the German heart. It cannot be a dynastic idea, nor a religious idea. In German history, both monarchy and religion have played rôles not of unification but of dissociation. The idea of race has therefore been put forward as the framework for the projected unification. The myth of race is susceptible of a variety of interpretations. It can even be regarded as an extreme form of the principle of self-determination which the Allies very soundly applied in their effort to redraw the map of Europe. Chancellor Hitler certainly loses no opportunity to protest against the treaties of 1919 as "contrary to nature," but he no less certainly recognizes in principle the territorial transformations of which the treaties are an expression, and which indeed are the only part of the treaty that will endure -- at least till the next seismic convulsion. What Chancellor Hitler claims is that fair play was violated in 1919 in that the principle of self-determination was not applied in certain cases where it would have worked to the advantage of Germany.

Poland is not gleeful at the prospect of the eventual aggrandizement of Germany. However, in her judgment German racial nationalism seems less dangerous to the peace of Europe than an imperialism of the old Prussian pattern. In Polish eyes, at any rate, there is a world of difference between the two theories. On the basis of territorial imperialism, Warsaw was a frontier city of Prussia for eleven years (between 1795 and 1806). But Poland has a strong case as against the theory of racial nationalism. In none of Poland's frontier provinces is the proportion of German inhabitants more than about 10 percent, whereas across the German frontier Poles by race and by language are often in the majority. There are 724,000 Germans living in Poland at the present time. There are 1,400,000 Poles living in Germany. On that basis, Germany has a much greater interest than Poland in letting sleeping dogs lie.

That fact has always been apparent enough to the Poles, but not to world opinion at large. People abroad were inclined to consider the so-called Corridor the most serious obstacle to a final pacification of Europe. That is an oversimplified and erroneous notion, as the Poles strove to show in every way possible. They argued that the present German-Polish frontier could not be considered to annoy or weaken Germany seriously, and that, on the other hand, if Poland were cut off from the sea by a German corridor the political and economic life of Poland would inevitably fall under German control. They concluded by expressing their absolute resolve never to yield an inch of the territorial minimum that had been very justly restored to them. As they patiently ran over the list of their moral and statistical arguments, they sometimes would succeed in getting a bored sort of hearing, more often their briefs would be dismissed with indifference. Now and then -- and that was especially the case in France -- they would be told that they should "be reasonable," and being reasonable meant to give up the Corridor.

Chancellor Hitler's régime was received with marked reserve in Poland. The Poles could not guess how he would set about giving effect to the first point in his platform, which called for the "reentry of all Germans into the bosom of a Greater Germany." We had noted that in "Mein Kampf" he had said nothing particularly offensive about Poland, but it was well remembered that one of his friends, advisers and lieutenants, Alfred Rosenberg, had expressed the opinion that "the elimination of the state of Poland was one of the basic postulates" of the Greater Germany. On February 15, 1933, Marshal Pilsudski, the great realist who has directed Polish policy since 1926, warned the government of the Third Reich through Joseph Beck, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, that "Poland's attitude towards Germany and German problems would always be the same as Germany's attitude towards Poland," and he added that "practically speaking, the situation in that regard depended much more on the attitude of Berlin than on the attitude of Warsaw." And since the advent of Hitler resulted at once in a new outburst of anti-Polish agitation in Danzig Marshal Pilsudski during the night of March 5-6, 1933, reënforced the detachment of Polish soldiers that has been guarding the military basin at Wester-platte in the Danzig harbor. While Geneva began poring over the voluminous law library that has been built up around the Danzig question, Berlin caught the point in a flash and Hitler saw that Poland would not tolerate any surprise seizure of Danzig, or of any other place, and that she would give an energetic answer to any German move that affected the status quo. Hitler therefore had to make up his mind either to continue the irritations that had already isolated Germany and that were leading to unpredictable results, or to put a halt to them and to try to create a healthier atmosphere in German-Polish relations. He chose the latter course. Speaking at Königsberg on May 27, 1933, on the eve of the elections to the Danzig Volkstag, Hitler succinctly declared that "National Socialism renounces those policies aiming at a modification of national frontiers at the expense of other peoples."

Poland has always desired not merely peace with Germany but, if possible, a friendly neighborliness based on mutual respect and confidence. No Chancellor of the Weimar Republic had the courage to set out along that road. Could the Poles sit speechless and deaf when Chancellor Hitler proposed that we work together for an improvement in the German-Polish situation? We might, at the most, have returned an evasive answer just to gain time and to see whether the National Socialist régime was destined to an early collapse. But we were the first to understand, since we knew our Germany, that that régime was going to endure. We therefore accepted Chancellor Hitler's suggestion and on January 26, 1934, signed a ten-year non-aggression treaty with the Third Reich. That was an historic document, closing a whole epoch of German-Polish relations.

What are the terms of that treaty? In Article I the two governments note that "the moment has come to begin a new phase in diplomatic relations between Poland and Germany." That "new phase" is to lie, at bottom, in a settlement by direct communication "of any sort of question that has a bearing on their mutual relations." In the quest for such solutions, or in any eventual case of dispute, the two governments "under no circumstances will resort to arms," since their purpose is to "strengthen the good relations that should obtain among neighbors." In case direct negotiations fail, resort may be had to "procedures provided for in other agreements still standing between the two parties" (the Locarno Pact, for instance). It is obvious that no territorial questions are to come up under this procedure, since "in accordance with international law," such questions "must be considered as belonging strictly to domestic affairs." Finally, the international agreements that may have been undertaken "by either of the parties" are "to be held as not incompatible" with the text of the German-Polish declaration. This important proviso not only leaves Poland's alliances intact; it also guarantees her complete freedom of action as a member of the League of Nations. Poland used this freedom on April 17, 1935, when she joined the other members of the League in their resolution censoring German rearmament and unilateral rejection of the clauses of the Versailles Treaty.

This agreement, which is altogether above criticism, does not, as is sometimes alleged, carry any secret addenda. All the talk that has appeared on that subject in the press of the various countries is false and ridiculous. It has been said that Poland has given a free hand to Germany in Austria, or that Poland has agreed to follow Germany in some move or other against the Soviet Union. I am not denying that a number of public utterances by prominent National Socialists betray the existence of hopes in certain German quarters with regard not only to Austria but also regarding the Baltic States and the Ukraine. Time and a sensible policy alone can show the Germans the fatuousness of any project that brutally ignores or sacrifices the rights of other peoples. But in any event it is carrying ingenuousness too far to imagine that because a few Germans harbor a certain idea Poland is going to adopt it or anything like it. The Anschluss can be prevented, but only by force. Since Poland is not one of the Powers most directly interested in the fate of Austria, she not unnaturally leaves to someone else -- Italy, for example -- the privilege of carrying that enterprise through. One would need to be morbidly suspicious to foresee Polish and German soldiers on the march toward Moscow and Kiev. There can be but one policy for Poland towards the east. Spaces are wide and open there, but there is no room for two simultaneous tactics. For years Poland has been trying to bring about a permanent understanding between herself and the Soviet Union. The Warsaw government would not choose just the moment when such efforts are about to bear fruit to succumb to some will-o'-the-wisp in the direction of the Ukraine.


Imperial Russia certainly never did anything to deserve the sympathy of the Poles. The Polish nation joyously welcomed the fall of the Tsarist régime and sincerely welcomed the establishment of a liberal democratic government in Russia. A government of that type could only pronounce in favor of Polish independence, and this in fact the provisional republican government did on March 30, 1917. But it was overthrown by the Communists on November 7 of the same year. Hoping that a similar revolution was in the offing in Germany, the Bolshevist leaders called for immediate peace on the basis of the self-determination of peoples. That was the origin of the ephemeral treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Furthermore, in a proclamation issued on August 29, 1918, the Soviet government annulled all "annexationist" treaties that the Tsarist régime had concluded. The treaties on which the dismemberment of Poland had rested were abrogated by that act, and Russia restored the Polish nation, so long dispossessed, to its sovereign rights.

However, on the collapse of the Central Powers, and quite inconsistently with principles which she had herself proclaimed, Soviet Russia did not hesitate to throw her troops westward upon Warsaw. That was the occasion for the outbreak of the Polish-Soviet war. It ended in 1920 with a decisive defeat for the Reds. The victory was largely due to a leader of genius, Marshal Pilsudski, and to a fine group of junior officers who had been trained in the Polish legions.

To restore reasonably courteous relations between Poland and the Soviet Union was a long and difficult process. From the ethnic standpoint, the territories which are strictly Russian are separated from those which are strictly Polish by a mixed and, on the whole, not very prosperous region which is sparsely settled with a White Russian-Ruthenian population in the north and by Ukrainians in the south. However, here and there in that zone one finds (to say nothing of a general civilizing influence of Poland) districts with strong Polish minorities or even majorities. A frontier running on the line of Riga through this mixed territory was therefore a compromise that gave Poland security without affecting her character as a national state in which Poles were indisputably the prevailing element. Had the Polish delegation at Riga so chosen, it could have drawn the new frontier much farther to the east, for at that time the Soviet representatives were only mildly interested in territorial questions. All the frontiers which they were then establishing with their neighbors were, in their eyes, temporary expedients. The world was soon to go Bolshevist -- peace was just a truce. War with the capitalist world was to go on, though there might be changes in the character of the "front."

As long as Moscow was nothing more than the world center of revolutionary propaganda, relations between the Soviet Union and its neighbors were very strained. But by 1927 the tendency represented by Joseph Stalin definitely gained the upper hand as against the tendency represented by Leon Trotsky. Moscow dropped the idea of Bolshevizing the world, for the nonce at any rate. Meantime the Soviet Union was to be socialized, agriculture was to be collectivized, production was to be organized, Russia was to be turned into an industrial country and was to become a great economic Power altogether independent of the capitalist world. Stalin's triumph was a triumph for peace, for Moscow's best efforts were now to be absorbed in internal tasks. From that moment normal relations between the Soviet Union and the other Powers became possible.

Poland watched developments in her neighbor to the east with an attentiveness that may readily be imagined. Nor did she let the favorable opportunity slip by. Reviving a negotiation that had been hanging fire since 1926, the Warsaw government signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union on July 25, 1932. That agreement provided that "any act of aggression affecting the territorial integrity and inviolability or the political independence of either country" would be considered contrary to the pact, and each party pledged itself "not to participate in any accord or agreement that was overtly hostile to the other in respect of aggression." Furthermore, on July 3, 1933, Poland and the Soviet Union signed a collective agreement that gave a very comprehensive definition of the term aggression. So a wholly new atmosphere came to prevail in the relations between Moscow and Warsaw.

In February 1934 Joseph Beck paid an official visit to the Soviet capital. The government of the Union overlooked nothing that could serve to emphasize the importance it ascribed to the first visit of a Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Messrs. Litvinov and Beck readily agreed that maintenance of the status quo was the best contribution the two countries could make to peace in Europe. It was also decided to raise the legations in Warsaw and Moscow to the rank of embassies (that example was followed in Berlin and Warsaw in October 1934). The pact of 1932 had been made to cover three years. The subject of extending that period was broached at the time, but no final conclusion was reached. Mr. Beck was willing to accept Mr. Litvinov's suggestion that the pact be prolonged by ten years, but to strengthen mutual trust between the two countries he asked Moscow to make an end to an old manœuvre that went back to the days of Tchitcherin as a device to prevent Lithuania and Poland from reaching agreement. We cannot go into that matter here; but the moment the Soviet government declared its readiness to recognize the present Polish-Lithuanian frontier, Poland signed the protocol that extended the nonaggression pact of 1932 to December 31, 1945.

The signing of the non-aggression and the London pacts were just two among many acts that had expressed Poland's sincere desire for mutual confidence in her relations with Russia. But the Moscow government could not rest content with that very notable achievement. Looking feverishly about in Europe for diplomatic successes that were eluding his grasp in Asia, Mr. Litvinov now suggested to Warsaw through the French government a mutual assistance pact of a definitely anti-German cast. One of the motives underlying this suggestion must undoubtedly have been a desire to prevent the normalization of German-Polish relations. This suggested pact is a favorite theme, also, with people who can think of Poland only as an ancillary Power that can justify its existence merely as an instrument of the policy of some Great Power. That is not the Polish view. Poland does not intend to be anybody's plaything. Much less does she want or need the support of one great neighbor against another. Both east and west what she wants is coöperation and good will.

Such a frank and simple attitude in diplomacy is very hard to grasp; for, as the French say, "one generally loves against somebody." But the fact is that, covered by her treaties, Poland does not feel particularly menaced. Being a liberal "bourgeois" state she finds it hard to picture an internationalist and communist Russian army shedding blood for Polish frontiers or Polish ideals. On the other hand, she sees the reverse side of the proposed mutual assistance pact. An "Eastern Pact" would put an end to the Franco-Polish alliance, since French policy toward Poland, at least at critical junctures, would have to follow Russian lead, and that would give Moscow a sort of protectorate over Polish policy. We will have none of that.


France and Poland have common interests, that is obvious. An alliance between them is in the nature of things. The Poles love France, and they realize that a powerful, prosperous and independent France is necessary to Europe and to the world. All that Poland asks of France is that France shall take accurate account of the position of Poland in Europe and especially in East-Central Europe. Poland's present policy is aimed at putting her alliance with France on a sounder footing.

Poland has not been satisfied with the way the alliance has worked since 1925. While France could always be sure that in case of a German attack Poland would support France with all her strength, Poland had grave apprehensions about what would happen in the reverse situation. While the utility of the alliance was never questioned in Poland, one could collect a whole library of articles, books and pronouncements by more or less prominent Frenchmen calling for the abandonment of the alliance on the ground that the "Corridor" might some day drag France into war with Germany.

The language of the Locarno agreements and the modest place assigned in them to Poland gave us the sense that the Franco-Polish alliance was losing sinew. We got the impression that the intentions of the alliance were being obscured in the course of developments at Geneva, and that the promise of automatic and immediate military aid to Poland was being weakened. Poland, of course, has never been hostile to an improvement in Franco-German relations, but she felt that that improvement should strengthen and stabilize peace in the east as well as in the west. Now Locarno made a distinction as regards western and eastern frontiers. World opinion was allowed to infer that some frontiers were definitely settled while others were not. It was after Locarno, in fact, that Germany began to develop her propaganda against Poland, while in France a tendency to regard Poland as a pawn in French policy became more and more accentuated. The very term "alliance" as applied to the relationship with Poland disappeared from official language, and was revived only by the late Louis Barthou. Everything seemed to indicate that France regarded the alliance as binding on Poland but optional for herself.

A clear indication that the French were moving toward an understanding with Germany was given when the date for the evacuation of the Rhineland was set forward. Of course, Poland had no objection to that, in principle; but she had no success in bringing the late Aristide Briand to see that the early evacuation should be made to imply some better guarantee of Polish security. Furthermore, most of the suggestions which France laid before the Disarmament Conference at Geneva were drawn up without previous accord with Poland, her strongest military ally. M. Paul Boncour proceeded in the same fashion in December 1932 when Germany was accorded equal rights. Then came the Four Power Pact, which shook the foundations of whole-hearted collaboration between France and Poland profoundly. The original draft of that agreement implied a virtual repudiation of the Polish alliance. Later on, in view of opposition in Poland and other interested countries, as well as in many sections of French public opinion, the text of that accord was amended, but the principle that certain Powers had the privilege of leadership remained, and that principle Poland could not recognize.

This gradual lapsing of the Franco-Polish alliance was sorrowfully contemplated in Poland. Poland could see the soundness of the view often expressed in Paris that a weak and cramped Poland was a danger to France, and the Warsaw government did everything it possibly could to normalize relations with Germany and the Soviet Union on the basis of complete equality. It was considered strange that that frank and open policy should then cause dissatisfaction and criticism in France. I cannot say that the present diplomatic situation in Europe is altogether favorable, but what Poland has done may certainly be taken as consolidating peace and increasing confidence. She has relieved France of serious causes for worry. And she is still the ally of France. That does not justify her in resting the whole weight of her security upon France. And if French opinion does not see that, it is because French opinion does not see that the day when Poland could be thought of as a mere satellite of France has passed.

Instead of working to restore the old cordiality in Franco-Polish relations, French diplomacy at present seems to be bent on making us regret our taste for independence. Polish statesmen have been attacked in discourteous not to say improper language in the French press. Even my French colleague Pertinax is counted among those polemicists who have tried, needless to say to no purpose, to represent the current Polish policy as reflecting merely a personal attitude of Marshal Pilsudski and Mr. Beck.

Such was the atmosphere in which the idea of the Eastern Pact was first launched. Since it concerned a region where Polish interests are vitally involved, France might have thought it natural to be sure that Poland, her ally, was in accord. Actually, however, the negotiations began in a quite different manner. The late M. Barthou paid a visit to Poland in April 1934. That was the first visit Poland had had from a French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Why did he come to Warsaw? To restore trustful coöperation between the two powers? Hardly. He was the personification of courtesy, but as for his diplomatic plan, he merely requested our adherence to the strange contraption that had issued from the lively imagination of M. Litvinov.

If we accept the Eastern Pact, the Franco-Polish alliance comes to an end, to be replaced with a Franco-Russian alliance, and the Polish army will simply be lining the roads to salute the passage of the new "steam-roller." If we refuse, we shall be accused of plotting with Germany, with dark designs upon the peace of Europe. We can do nothing, therefore, but hope that France will in the end bring herself to appreciate the seriousness of our diplomatic and psychological objections to the Pact.

France is, in fact, beginning to understand the Polish point of view. After several months of hesitation and reflection, M. Laval, successor to M. Barthou, has concluded that the Eastern Pact must be abandoned. In its place he is wisely substituting the method of bilateral treaties of mutual assistance. At the moment of writing, a treaty of this sort is being negotiated between France and the Soviet Union. The treaty between the U. S. S. R. and Czechoslovakia will be its reply. Poland has no objection in principle to such agreements provided they contain no clauses hostile to her and provided M. Laval revivifies that other "bilateral treaty of mutual assistance," the Franco-Polish alliance, first formulated on February 19, 1921. The two Powers agreed therein "to confer on all questions of foreign policy affecting the two states," and also signed a military convention. In December 1925, within the framework of the Locarno treaties, the two governments signed a treaty stipulating that in case of unprovoked aggression each would come to the other's aid. Should M. Laval choose to renew this treaty he can count on the full coöperation of Polish statesmen.


Great Britain after the Armistice endeavored to reëstablish a balance of power on the Continent. She felt that this would be a guarantee of peace and also a prop to her own hegemony. To this dogma Britain added that of the economic interdependence of peoples, in accordance with which it was thought necessary to bring about the recovery of Germany and Russia as a preliminary to the resumption of economic activity in Britain. This policy affected Anglo-Polish relations even more than that of the balance of power. Moreover, many Englishmen were critical of the assumed ineptitude of Poland to utilize her immense natural resources, and by contrast they extolled the superior organization and technique of Germany. This mentality goes far to explain the opposition which Poland's just claims in Upper Silesia met with in Great Britain.

The new British evaluation of Poland's position and capabilities is one of the most important changes in post-war Europe. The fact is that Poland's energy and patriotism in both domestic and foreign matters have impressed the British. Her efficient foreign policy has been noted in particular, and her moderation has been interpreted not as a sign of weakness but as proof of her self-confidence. The recent visit to Warsaw of Anthony Eden, Lord Privy Seal, is the latest manifestation of Britain's increased respect. It was the first official visit of a British statesman. In that connection the London Times approved editorially of Polish hesitations to accept the Eastern Pact, asserting that Poland's motives, unlike those of Germany, are not subject to the suspicion that she wants to keep the way open for eastward expansion. At Warsaw it was explained to Captain Eden that Poland opposed the Eastern Pact because it could be regarded as an attempt by France to free herself of her obligations toward Poland and pass them on to Russia. If the guarantee of Poland had been shared by Great Britain, it would have been a different story. But as everyone knows, London will give no guarantees beyond the Rhineland. Great Britain is quite right in refusing to assume obligations along the Vistula. Why, then, should Poland be asked to guarantee the status quo along the Danube?


The Little Entente was founded early in 1921 with the idea of holding Hungary in leash and keeping an eye on Austria. Those limited objectives were of no particular concern to Poland, and in fact the question of her joining never came up. Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia could count forty-four million people between them. That should have been enough to deal with eight million Hungarians. In 1923 Poland proposed enlarging the Entente into a Quadruple Alliance to guarantee peace not only on the Danube but along the Vistula. The suggestion was curtly and sarcastically rejected in Prague. Our Czech neighbors at that time regarded us as embarrassing allies in view of the double threat against us from Germany and the Soviet Union. Messrs. Masaryk and Beneš thought it discreet to leave us to our fate.

That attitude of the Czechs goes back to their idea of the future of Eastern Europe at the time of the Great War. They then prayed for a Russian victory, in the hope that Russia would be the dominant power in the East, with Czechoslovakia as her outpost in the very heart of Europe. They wanted Poland to be free, but small. Eastern Galicia would be a Russian province and they hoped to get sub-Carpathian Ruthenia for themselves. That would give them a common frontier with Russia. They took Poland so lightly that in January 1919, without waiting for the decision of the Peace Conference, they tried to seize by force the territory of Teschen, then in dispute between the two countries. In July 1920, when Poland was staggering under the impact of the Red invasion, M. Beneš succeeded, with the help of Mr. Lloyd George and the late M. Berthelot, in forcing an unjust compromise upon Poland, whereby 110,000 Poles were left on the Czech side of the frontier. That hardly made for an atmosphere of trust. Poland wishes no harm to Czechoslovakia. She wishes her peace and prosperity.

In the Balkans Poland has few political interests. The only Balkan capital where Polish diplomacy is active is Belgrade. Poland likes and admires Jugoslavia. On September 17, 1926, the two governments signed a pact of friendship in which they agreed to consult on those matters of foreign policy which they consider of common interest.

Poland is bound to Rumania by a treaty of alliance signed on March 3, 1921, made more definite on March 26, 1926, and renewed January 15, 1931. The two countries undertake "mutually to respect their territorial integrity and governmental independence as at present constituted, and to maintain them against any attack." That alliance makes Poland the only country that has pledged itself to uphold Rumania's possession of Bessarabia, as the agreements involved in the Little Entente do not extend to the Russo-Rumanian frontier. Of late, to be sure, the Bessarabian question has lost some of its acuteness. In negotiating its nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, the Polish foreign office took it for granted that Rumania would sign a similar pact at the same time as Poland. It is a matter of common knowledge that the reason this was not done was because of pressure exerted at Bucharest by certain French groups.

Maintenance of the independence of the Baltic States is a constant principle in Poland's foreign policy. Her relations are cordial with Esthonia and Latvia, but not with Lithuania. That country still refuses to recognize the international character of the Polish-Lithuanian frontier and clings to its unjustifiable claim to Vilna and the Vilna district, where no Lithuanians, virtually, are to be found. Basic in the Vilna settlement of March 15, 1923, were (1), a formal plebiscite of the inhabitants affected; (2), a decision of the League Council; and (3), an unqualified request from Lithuania to the Great Powers that they draw a frontier between Poland and Lithuania. The settlement is therefore binding upon both parties. If it is Lithuania's choice to have no relations with Poland, whether diplomatic, postal or by railroad, she is free to do as she pleases. Poland can manage to do without. But it must be plain that Poland can assume no obligations regarding Lithuania over the roundabout route of an Eastern Pact. When Lithuania has exhausted all possibilities of diplomatic intrigue, she will probably come around to the view that normal relations should obtain between her and Poland. There could be no better guarantee of Lithuanian independence than Poland's friendship.


Poland is equipped with all the moral and material requisites for becoming once more the Great Power which she was in the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. She is unfalteringly determined to resume her proper rôle and position in Europe. She has two convictions: She must not be a passive pawn in European diplomacy, but an active element. She must have a government that is at once strong and fair, guaranteeing both authority and liberty.

Under the first head, Polish policy is inspired by what might be termed "constructive pacifism." Devoted to the League of Nations, Poland is suspicious of high-sounding general formulas that represent fictitious progress and give the nations an illusory sense of security. There can be no absolute guarantees of security, any more than there can be transcendental guarantees of political and territorial integrity. Poland knows that better than anybody else. In the eighteenth century three of her rapacious neighbors decided to dismember her, taking advantage of the very treaties of guaranty which they had concluded with her. At that time no one came to her aid. The Eastern Pact of that day worked in such a way that her three guarantors came to an agreement to attack and devour her!

Security, independence, territorial integrity -- these are things that one must defend with one's own might, and constantly defend, since the risk and the threat are everlasting. Any organized security resting on bona fide disarmament and on universal coöperation against any aggressor still remains a distant ideal.

After fifteen years of life, the League of Nations has not succeeded in effecting uniform obligations for all its members in the matter of protecting minorities. Poland filed a demand for such uniformity as early as 1921. After waiting thirteen years in vain, she declared at Geneva in 1934 that, "pending the establishment of a general and uniform system, the Polish government would be obliged to reject any collaboration with international organs as regards the application in Poland of the system of minority protection." The present system is unfair and unworkable; it requires revision from top to bottom. In making that statement Poland did not attack the principle of the inviolability of treaties. Mr. Beck clearly stated that "minority interests are and will be protected by the constitutional laws of Poland." She merely suspended the operation of a clause that had become inapplicable -- the same unilateral procedure that England, France and other Powers adopted when they suspended service on the war debt to the United States. Personally, I am not so sure that the best procedure for the future lies in the generalization of agreements as to minorities. I am inclined to think that the absorption of minorities is more practicable. The minority treaties are temporary measures, and must eventually give way to constitutional guarantees according equal rights to all citizens. In any event such guarantees must be uniform in all civilized countries.

Under the second head, we postulate the principle that a strong government is the basic guarantee of national security. We have had such a guarantee in Poland since May 15, 1926. Surrounded by a young élite, Marshal Pilsudski has been governing in accordance with principles that follow no foreign example, emanate from no foreign doctrine, but find their source in the conditions of Polish life itself. Have we a democratic or a dictatorial form of government? The Polish nation can express its opinions. Opposition parties have not been dissolved. There is freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of press and assembly. But Marshal Pilsudski is in the saddle. The answer is that we have a democratic system where the government is strong. Strong democracy, I believe, is the form of government that distinguishes our moment in history.

Peace with all the world but full independence at home -- such are the objectives of Polish policy. The Polish people are full of hope. They expect to succeed. They want to see their rôle in Europe enlarged. Some are astounded by such candor. Others are annoyed by what they call such arrogance. Others are merely suspicious. All of them have the habit of thinking that the restoration of Poland was due to chance and that she may soon disappear. They have not grown used to the fact that Poland both exists and will endure. Poland is not a "bridge head," she is not a "buffer state," she is not a "satellite." It is hard to say where is the dividing line between the small state and the Great Power. One thing, however, is certain. Poland is not a small country that has been magnanimously liberated and in exchange is in duty bound never to manifest a will of its own. Poland is an important state, loyal to her alliances and grateful for services actually rendered. But she is just as firmly resolved that affairs that concern her shall not be discussed and disposed of apart from her. She feels, in a word, quite competent herself to manage her own relations with all other Powers.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • CASIMIR SMOGORZEWSKI, Berlin correspondent of the Gazeta Polska; author of "Poland's Access to the Sea," and other works
  • More By Casimir Smogorzewski