Intermarium as a Polish Geopolitical Concept in History

by PAC Intern Montagu James           

The idea of an Intermarium (“Międzymorze” in Polish) has long been discussed in Polish history. Latin for “between the seas,” the Intermarium was a proposed by Józef Piłsudski in the aftermath of World War I as a confederation of Eastern European states between the Baltic and Black Seas. The idea of a unified state in Eastern Europe involving Poland originated with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth established in 1385 which consisted of two separate kingdoms ruled by one monarch. Piłsudski’s Intermarium, while different from its medieval predecessor in that it would not be a union ruled by a single monarch, was similar to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in that each member state would consolidate under a Polish-led government. The inter-war Intermarium plan was however unpopular, both domestically from the opposition parties, and abroad, with the Soviet Union especially disapproving, as it viewed the proposed confederation as a threat to its influence in the Eastern European region.

            Piłsudski’s Intermarium ultimately never materialized: he died in 1935 and soon after the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany invaded Eastern Europe. Perhaps a stronger, unified confederation as envisioned by Piłsudski would have set a different tone in the pre-war diplomacy between Poland, Germany, and the Soviet Union. As a result, in the next 50 years after World War II, the idea of a pan-Eastern European confederation under Polish leadership was impossible due to the Cold War and the Soviet influence over the region.

Recently, since the independence of former-Soviet states in the Eastern European region, the idea of a new Intermarium has regained popularity. When President Duda assumed office in 2015, he vowed to strengthen cooperation and alliances with Poland’s neighbors. The following year, Poland and 11 other Eastern European nations created the Three Seas Initiative modeled in part by the Intermarium idea. While not an exact replica of Piłsudski’s Intermarium, the Initiative likewise proposes regional partnerships through multinational projects in energy, digital, and transportation sectors. Closer regional ties will increase Central and Eastern European growth and can provide economic stability and investment opportunities for foreign investors, including American businesses.

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