While the world has been focused on the fighting in Ukraine between the government’s troops, Russians, and pro-Russian separatists, the people of Poland, the Associated Press reported Sept. 17, have been living in fear that their own nation will become a target of Vladimir Putin in his perceived desire to resurrect the old Russian/Soviet Union empire. And their fears may well be justified, considering that Putin has reportedly made the comment that he could have Russian troops in Warsaw in two days. But could history be repeating itself? Could Poland again become the first country overrun as the start of another global conflict — World War 3?
The Telegraph reported Sept. 18 (citing the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung) that Russian president Vladimir, while in private discussions with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, made the comment that: “If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.”
Although Poles are split on whether or not they believe Russia will actually invade, the possibility is given historical weight in that Wednesday, Sept. 17, was the 75th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland, where Germany and Russia raced from opposite sides of the country in a dual territory grab that marked the first few weeks of World War II. The prevailing anxiety is that Vladimir Putin might not find his current attempts at reacquiring Ukraine as part of a Greater Russia enough and turn his sights on Europe — Poland, in particular.
However, Poland is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance that includes many European nations and Turkey. Many of the member nations were once former Soviet Union satellite countries and part of a mutual defense alliance called the Warsaw Pact. As part of NATO, Poland and her former Warsaw Pact fellow nations are due protection from NATO against Russia (or any other belligerent power) if they should attack.
The border battles raging to their south and the NATO agreement notwithstanding, Poles worry whether the U. S. and NATO will actually come to their aid should Russia invade. Such a meeting of militaries would undoubtedly usher in World War 3 and some wonder if the U. S. — or any other NATO nation — would risk a confrontation that could escalate into not just a third world war but one where nuclear weapons might be used to gain some form of tactical or strategic advantage. Polish leaders have been imploring NATO to do more in the way of protection as well.
But in the end, the possibility exists that Vladimir Putin will one day invade Poland, risking the start of World War 3. And though there are some who may doubt that war will come, there are older Poles who know that it can, because they were there when it happened once before.