If politics is partly the art of clenching one's teeth, then geopolitics is about coldly analysing what is important in terms of the national interest - raison d'état - and doing so irrespective of historical reasons and ideological prejudices that may once have been founded.
This is worth knowing. And not just in theory. Take, for example, the matter of Turkey's, at the moment rather theoretical, accession to the European structures, an issue which has dragged on for more than half a century, dividing both European and Polish public opinion.
On the one hand there are understandable reservations about a country of 80-90 million Muslims becoming a part of "Christian Europe." Added to that is the obvious fact that Turkey's potential – although certainly by no means imminent – accession would mean the European Union having borders with Iraq, Iran and Syria. Now that does seem quite an exotic neighbourhood for a Europe that would no longer be geographical, but political.
On the other hand, if we take a dispassionate geopolitical view through the prism of reason, not emotion, we have to recognise that bringing Ankara into the EU has three undoubted benefits for Poland and its national interest.
The first positive – particularly important in the context of what is happening in Ukraine – is that it would strengthen the "transatlantic camp" in Europe. This is the informal alliance of countries not suffering from Americanophobia, but instead seeing Washington as a very important strategic partner of the EU. The countries in this informal grouping cannot easily be swayed by Russian, pro-Russian or anti-American propaganda.
The second positive is that it would shift the balance of power in Europe so that none of the largest countries (one in particular) could dominate the EU and make it an instrument through which to pursue their own interests. Obviously we're talking about Germany – a diplomat would never say as much, but as I'm not a diplomat I can.
The third positive is that bringing a soon-to-be 100-million strong country into the EU would make for a stronger Europe, although not a federalist Europe because it is hard to imagine President Erdoğan or his successor doing the bidding of Germany or France, or Prime Minister Davutoğlu or his successor acting as a "subcontractor" for the Franco-German tandem.
I am far from being a Euro-enthusiast, but as a Euro-realist I want my country to be part – and of course an important part – of a strong Europe which will be a real partner of the United States, not merely its kid brother. Neither is it possible to economically "devour" an Asia which is growing in strength.
Polish "patriots," a convenient although perhaps overly diplomatic definition, are, or will be, ideologically opposed to Turkey joining the European Union because of, let's be blunt, Islam. Others, let's call them "pacifists," even if motivated by the best of intentions, out of concern for national and public security and terrified by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and Islamic terrorism, will not want political Europe to share a border with Iran, Iraq or Syria.
Yet those who take seriously the concept of national interest - the idea of a strong Polish state, which has always been Poland's raison d'état - will favour expanding the European structures to include not only an anti-Russian Ukraine, but also a pro-American Turkey, which will by no means allow itself to be kept on a tight German leash, on the contrary.
This was well understood by the late President Lech Kaczynski, who publicly advocated opening up the EU to Turkey, something that has not been forgotten and is often mentioned in Turkey today.
So the Turkish question clearly divides Poland. This division between emotional reaction and dispassionate geostrategic analysis is something that is immediately apparent.
About the author
Former minister of EU Affairs in Poland, member of the European Parliament