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1919-1920 - Russo-Polish War - War Aims

Nationalism, driven into subterranean methods of plots and intrigue, had been forced to live on traditions in which the real and unreal touched elbows. Under these conditions a government or dominant party could not spring into life and adopt a sane policy. Poland was always the Poland of the past that possessed Lithuania and Danzig, that ruled over the Ruthenians and, dominating Russia, reached beyond Kiev. In this distorted atmosphere of unreality, Poland was divided politically. There was Congress Poland, which included Russian Poland; Posnania with the city of Posen as its center and which formerly belonged to Germany, and there is the military area. Posnania had its own government, and looked, on the surface, like a separate state, occasionally working at variance with the central government at Warsaw. Congress Poland was run by the Council of Ministers and their President, and by the Diet. The Military Area was east of Congress Poland and went as far as the boundary, which the Poles considered to be a considerable distance beyond the Curzon Line.

The Curzon line (only a temporary armistice line drawn by an Interallied Commission within territory clearly Polish) was said to be grossly unjust as a permanent boundary between Russia and Poland and would leave a large tract of clearly Polish territory ethnographically still in the hands of the Russians. It would seem that ethnographical justice required a line somewhere between the Curzon line and the Polish claims.

Whatever might be said of the right of the Poles to push the Bolsheviks beyond the Curzon line, the fact remained that the Poles had been the great bulwark against the Bolshevik acquisition of territory. In 1918 there was no such thing as a Polish army. The Germans were just going out and the Bolsheviks were just coming in; other nations were also biting at Poland. In the north Pilsudski got together a Polish army against the Bolsheviks, while down in Lemberg little boys and women helped to drive out the Ukranians. General Haller's Polish legions came in from France. The Polish army early in 1920 numbered over a million men - but they were not properly equipped nor properly supplied.

The French and British governments advised the Poles against making a deep attack into Russia. Nevertheless, representatives of the French government did encourage Poland, both during and after the Paris Conference, to assume the chief role in the ring of nations by which Germany was to be fettered in the east. According to this doctrine, the Poles were to be a military buffer state, made as large and powerful as possible, to hold Germany and Russia apart. In support of this idea of a dominant Poland in the east of Europe, the Allies poured munitions and armaments into Poland. Even America sold millions worth of her armament in France to the Poles. The British government must bear its share of the responsibility because, while it did not want Poland to become engaged in a disastrous campaign against Russia, it gave a free hand to France to pursue her policy of creating a buffer state.

The responsibility of the Polish-Bolshevik war rested with Poland and the Allies. The French official press declared that the Bolshevik campaign against Poland could not be undertaken without long preparation. Consequently the Polish invasion of Russia was represented as a preventive measure to forestall the attack of the Bolsheviks. This argument, like similar arguments made by Germans to defend their attacks against the Allies, had the basis of a half-truth. Not only did it take time to prepare for the Bolshevik invasion of Poland, it also took time for the Polish army to prepare for the Polish invasion of Russia. It probably took the Poles longer because they had no army to begin with and they had to import their material from a long distance in small quantities at a time. The army of General Haller which had been operating in France, was sent to Poland. France had a very large military mission in Poland, organizing the Polish army and later commanding it, when the Bolsheviki threatened Warsaw.

The Communist take-over in Russia failed to alter the old stratagems of Russian policy toward central and eastern Europe. Lenin's invasion of Poland, in answer to Pilsudski's aid to the incipient Ukrainian state, and Communist preoccupation with Poland, as a natural glacis for an offensive against Europe, were cases in point. To the Soviet leadership, however, the conquest of Poland became part and parcel of a larger plan. In pursuance of its world revolutionary aims, the U.S.S.R. had a definite plan to wrest control of Europe and the Far East but found itself surrounded by groupings of hostile states. Therefore, the possession of Poland was, to Russia, more necessary than ever in order to break through the cordon sanitaire of 1920 and to remove French influence from east central Europe.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:29:27 ZULU