Page 19 - Cormorant 2019
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  the first time that the fact that Poland had ceased to exist for over a hundred years, carved up between its larger, more powerful neighbours, really hit home. It was to become clear over the next few days the extent to which this continues to shape Polish views on regional security; independence is not a distant memory but a recent event.
During his introduction to the course, one of the questions posed by Commodore Ackland was “What will you remember about ACSC in 10 years’ time?” For those who visited Auschwitz, this was an experience that will persist in the memory for a long time beyond that. Nothing you can read or watch can prepare you for the visceral impact of tonnes of human hair, piles of children’s shoes, spectacles and
other personal possessions. It was a subdued bus ride to Warsaw.
The next two days were split between the British Embassy, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and a historical tour of the city. Embassy briefs covered Polish perspectives across diplomatic, military and economic levers of power. These briefs provided insight into the volatile history of Poland and how this has shaped her culture and perceptions. We were left in no doubt that the Poles view Russia as a very significant military threat, with their interpretation of its intentions heavily influenced by their history. Despite virtually all its trade being with the EU, the country
as a whole is largely Eurosceptic. Unsurprisingly, fostering a strong alliance with the US and NATO is
seen as vital to the national interest. The Warsaw Uprising Museum and historical tour reinforced the briefs arranged by the Embassy; the sense that the Soviets betrayed Warsaw during the uprising, by leaving it to be destroyed by the Nazis, helps to understand a depth of distrust of Russia that might otherwise seem disproportionate.
Overall, RSE1 to Poland provided a valuable opportunity to immerse ourselves in a different strategic culture and to gain insight into Polish perspectives on defence and security-related issues. A big thank you must go to Lt Col Bob Christopher and the team at the British Embassy for organising a truly memorable RSE.
   These briefs
provided insight into the
volatile history of Poland... ◆◆◆

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