On June 4, a group referring to itself as the “Polish Volunteer Corps” issued a boastful announcement confirming its participation in a series of cross-border ground offensives into Russia. News of these audacious raids was jarring enough, given the many prior assurances of U.S. and Ukrainian war planners, who insisted no attacks would be carried out inside Russian territory. It was all the more conspicuous that the incursion units were apparently comprised of Polish soldiers.
Poland, of course, is not only a NATO member state, but the NATO member state with which the U.S. has most assiduously aligned itself since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine (Polish government officials deny any formal connection to the “Polish Volunteer Corps”). So the raids raised an obvious, yet oft-neglected question: Just what the hell is U.S. policy in Ukraine?
If you turn on the TV, you’ll find pundits on every channel loyally reciting from memory the broad parameters of the U.S. mission—at least as it’s being conveyed in daily rhetorical flourishes by Biden Administration officials, assorted Congressional chest-thumpers, and brave think tank warriors. Freedom and autocracy are locked in a great cosmic battle of good versus evil, or so goes the usual storyline—most often narrated with a degree of moral complexity that can be generously compared to a lower-tier Marvel Movie.
But apart from this steady stream of heavily recycled platitudes, was it ever plainly disclosed to Americans—the chief financial sponsors of the Ukraine war effort, after all—that the scope of the war effort they’ve found themselves subsidizing would eventually expand to include platoons of Polish soldiers marching straight into Russia? Did anyone back in Washington, D.C. sign off on this, or was there ever an opportunity granted for public consideration of its potentially foreboding implications?
At least in theory, the U.S. is treaty-bound to come to the defense of Poland in the event of armed attack. And while Poland may nominally disavow the Polish Volunteer Corps, a Polish journalist writing for Poland’s largest digital publication says he was in attendance at a founding organizational meeting in Kyiv this past February, during which the unit was established not as a ragtag group of untested amateurs, but as an elite “sabotage and reconnaissance” force—which from the get-go was “reporting directly to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.” Per this account, the unit was to consist of Poland’s “most experienced soldiers,” with notable imprecision as to where specifically those soldiers hailed from.
Then there’s the fact that shortly before the formation of the “Polish Volunteer Corps,” a cross-coalition bill was submitted to the Polish parliament which would make it legal for Polish nationals to fight in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The war against Russia was to be recognized as “a special situation from the point of view of the national security of the Republic of Poland,” the text reads, “requiring non-standard political and legislative actions on the part of the state.”…