Simms: Polish dispute termed key to peace formula (3-7-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (March 7, 1943)

Simms: Polish dispute termed key to peace formula

If nation is dismembered, Europe again faces power politics
By William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard foreign editor

Washington – (March 6)
Poland, first among the Allies to be invaded by Hitler in the present war, will probably also be the first to test the efficacy of the United Nations in making the peace.

Poland will be the guinea pig for the peace formula known as the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms. If it works on her – if she comes out whole and sovereign – then, say the diplomatic doctors here, there is real hope for the other small nations of Europe.

If, on the other hand, she emerges dismembered, faith in the formula will dwindle and Europe will almost inevitably return to the pre-war balance-of-power system or to chaos.

The boundary dispute between Russia and Poland is now in the open, with increasing signs of bitterness. Poland insists on her rights, as an ally, at least to her pre-war frontiers and political status, while the Soviets lay claim to approximately the entire eastern half of the country.

Some are ‘blood kin’

The Russians’ claim appears to be based on the facts that part of the people in this area are their “blood kin,” and that for a century or more before World War I, the larger part of Poland was ruled by the Czars, up to and even beyond Warsaw, Lublin, Łódź.

To this, the Poles reply with some heat that certainly the Czars ruled over this territory – but only after the three partitions of 1772, 1793 and 1795.

Don’t forget, however, they add, that these partitions were by force, the result of the combined aggressions of Russia, Austria and Prussia, just as the last, and fourth, partition, in 1939, was the joint work of Germany and the Soviet Union.

Restored by treaty

But, before the partitioning began, Poland was territorially much larger than she was in 1939, and over that territory she had been sovereign for centuries.

Modern Poland was restored by the Treaty of Versailles. Her boundaries were laid down by the peacemakers of Paris – chiefly the British and the Americans. For wanting to cling to these frontiers, Moscow now charges her with “imperialism.” In turn, she charges Russia with staking out territorial claims in violation of the Atlantic Charter.

The situation underlying this dispute has all the makings of an explosion which might tear the United Nations to pieces. For that reason, observers here feel, no time should be lost in bringing the Russians and Poles together.

Cite population

This will not be easy. The Poles point out that their population of 35 million cannot possibly endanger more than 190 million Russians. Poland occupies only 150,000 square miles – less than California – while the Soviet Union is nearly three times the size of the United States.

Polish spokesmen insist they have no intention of giving up any of their territory to friend or foe. After all, they say, it should not be forgotten that the Poles are also fighting in this war. Their country of 1939 was the smallest that had ever existed as an independent state.

Points to compromise

Said Ignacy Matuszewski, Polish Minister of Finance from 1929 to 1931 and distinguished editor, now in this country:

Poland’s frontiers were drawn by compromise, not expansion. There was compromise in the west, for the British delegates at Versailles took good care not to give Poland too much of the land that had been won. There was voluntary compromise in the east, for the sake of peace, since, at the time of negotiations culminating in the Treaty of Riga, Polish armies held a line far to the east of the frontier which Poland freely accepted. Poland accepted that compromise and Poland respected it.

Poland, says Mr. Matuszewski, has withstood temptations, scrupulously upholding her dignity and honor as a nation. She refused to allow German troops to cross her soil to get at the Russians, or Russians to cross her soil to get at the Germans. Unlike Italy, she could not be bribed.

That, he adds, is why Poland believes her own land to be inviolable and cannot permit any questioning of her established frontiers.