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Albania must take a lesson from Poland to avert another Balkan war

The Balkans is now closer to the verge of a multi-front war that it has been since the blood-soaked 1990s.

Today, the primary culprits are those calling for a Greater Albania. Those calling both overtly and supinely for such a thing are a combination of far-right Albanian politicians who now dominate mainstream Albanian politics, radical Albanians living in Southern Serbia, radical Albanians living in the fraught Serbian province of Kosovo, radical Albanians living in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, radical Albanians living in the Republic of Montenegro and the leaders of the EU and NATO.

Because the clear axis of the current brewing conflicts in the Balkans is centred around Albanian politicians, those throughout the Balkans but particularly in Albania ought to study the grave mistakes made by similar politicians in the Second Polish Republic which existed between the World Wars.

The Second Polish Republic was dominated by two political rivals, Józef Piłsudski and Roman Dmowski. Although both figures are venerated in contemporary Poland, each man had a radically different idea about what Poland ought to be.

Józef Piłsudski called for a ‘greater Poland’ which would encompass much of the territory of the once vast Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which once dominated central and Eastern Europe.

Piłsudski was stridently anti-Russian whilst he totally underestimated and even discounted the coming German threat.

He sought to build a right-wing European federation which would rival and dominate the neighbouring Soviet Union. It was this policy which allowed his country to sleepwalk into the Polish-Soviet War which lasted from 1919-1921. It was Europe’s most protracted conflict of the inter-world war period.

Piłsudski’s hatred of the Soviet Union also led Poland to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany in 1934.  Five years later, the German invasion of Poland marked the beginning of the Second World War in Europe.

By contrast, Roman Dmowski favoured the settled post-First World War Polish borders and sought an ethnically and culturally homogenous state that would resist German nationalist ambitions whilst not antagonising the large Soviet state to the East.

Ultimately, Piłsudski’s brand of ‘Greater Polish’ expansionism won the day, leaving Poland dangerously exposed to German aggression which cost Poland dearly during the 1940s.

Today, Albanian politicians face a similar moment of decision. If they seek a Greater Albania, war will be inevitable. What’s more is that whilst Piłsudski provoked Moscow and exposed Germany’s western borders to Hitler’s blitzkrieg, the moves of radical Albanian leaders are outright provoking a war.

Piłsudski saw himself as the leader of all Poles, including those outside Polish borders. Likewise, many Albanian politicians today, see themselves as leaders of an ultra-nationalist vanguard for ethnic Albanians throughout the region.

The modern Albanian state dates back only to 1912, the Greater Albania that many seek to create does not correspond to any meaningful geographical irredentism. At least Piłsudski could point to the borders of the historic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Modern Albanian leaders can do no such thing.

Unless a figure resembling Roman Dmowski emerges in Albanian politics, the road to war may come sooner than expected.

Although Albanian ultra-nationalists have many in the EU and NATO on their side, if they do indeed ignite the war, there is a high probability that Serbia, Montenegro, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and even Greece may unite against radical Albanians.

When it comes to a regional war, if such a thing were to happen, those agitating for a Greater Albanian would be outnumbered….and this is before one discusses Russia’s historic alliance with Serbia.

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