The Russian government has made up decision to directly intervene in Syria with all available military capabilities and this was primarily declared and acknowledged by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov. He mentioned straight away the following: “We never ever have made any secret of our militaries presence in Syria. Our military specialists are working there, assisting to their Syrian colleagues to master our combat weapons. However, whether is needed we will be moving forward the steps in accordance to our national legislation, to international law and in compliance to implementing our international obligations and with fully consent stemming from the Syrian legal government. We helped, are continuing to help and will help the Syrian government when it comes to supplying the Syrian army with everything it needs. Russia is sending planes to Syria with both military equipment in accordance with current contracts and humanitarian aid. Hence, Russia will be keeping fight in Syria”. This is very serious statement that actually confirms Russia’s contemporary and nearest future plans regarding how to cope with geopolitical crisis in Syria. Moscow has been a staunch ally of the Assad government throughout the uprising that began in March 2011 and later descended into a civil war. At time being, Russia does not step forward to reinforce the presence in this country. On its turn, Russia proposed to the USA Administration creation of joint coalition against “Islamic Caliphate” and reinforces the joint effort in order to destroy completely the ISIS at regional and global levels. As it is known, Russia maintains a naval base in Tartus province, south of Latakia province. In addition to that the Russian forces are building a long runway capable of accommodating large aircraft near the Hmaymeen military airport in Latakia province. In May of 2015, the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad appealed to the Russian government to deploy in Syria Russian military bases. At the beginning of September of 2015 the Russian government with endorsement of the National Security Council held its urgent session in Sochi at the end of August ordered to those militaries already sent in Syria to launch airstrike missions with Russian military jets MiG-31 exploited by the Syrian pro-Assad Air Force against ISIS units and started to provide military equipment and armament to Syria via all available transit routes, among them are to be identified as follow:
Russian-Belarussian drills “Zapad-2017”, planned for 14-20 September 2017, raise many doubts and questions, not only among leaders of neighboring countries. One of the reason is concentration of a large number of troops on NATO’s eastern flank, also as claimed NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg the lack of transparency of joint Russian and Belarusian forces. Limiting the access to precise observation of preparation to exercise and lack of opportunity to fully participate in planned activities does not reinforce the trust and belief in the defensive nature of drills. In the opinion of Alexandra Grushko, the Russian ambassador to NATO, this is not inconsistence with international agreements, among others with OSCE Vienna Document from 1999 “Confidence and security building measures”. The tensions in this region, especially by prism of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian hybrid war are serious, in fact this seems to confirm a new Cold War scenario of relations between the West and the East.
The “Zapad” drills, in Russian “West”, dates back to the Soviet Union, when the number of soldiers and civilian personnel involved in it reached more than 150,000 (in 1981), when they exercise defense against German aggression. From 2009 we can talk about the regularity of these maneuvers, in cooperation with Minsk. Also in that year, according to media reports, the scenario predicted a nuclear attack on Polish territory. In 2013, the combined forces defended theirs countries against Baltic terrorists. Despite the announced 13,000, in maneuvers participated about 90,000 soldiers and other personnel.
Recently, Polish-Ukrainian relations have experienced a clear crisis. This is evidenced by official state enunciations and the tone of media commentary – in Poland far from sincere solidarity from the first period of “dignity revolution” and Russian aggression. Significantly, even in the right-wing circles, referring to the legacy of President Lech Kaczynski, one of the greatest advocates of strategic cooperation with Ukraine, the growing distrust and irritation of Kiev’s politics is noticed. Characteristic is the title of a recent article of Peter Cywiński published on the popular Internet website wPolityce.pl “The End of illusions. Time to make a strong reorientation in our policy towards Ukraine”.
History, which divides
Undoubtedly, the most important, though not the only factor that exacerbates Polish-Ukrainian relations, is historical memory, strongly linked – especially in case of Ukrainians – with historical policy. In the collective memory of Poles, there are few traumatic events that affect the imagination, marked by the symbolism of evil, as the Volhynian slaughter. The systematic nature of genocide and extreme, inhuman cruelty, including the atrocities against women and children, sacralised the tragedy of the Volhynian population, providing a unique place in the historical consciousness of the Poles.