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The Polish capital of Warsaw sits on the Vistula River. It has riches, cosmopolitanism, and frantic European competition to its west, and vast, open spaces dominated by cultures as tender as the Soviets and Mongols to its east. In this geopolitical pressure cooker, the Poles often have been history’s great losers, facing waves of conquerors from either direction. Poland’s foes alternatively subjugate them, or eliminate the country from the map of Europe.

The Poles are in for another tough couple of decades. The Russians desperately hope they can expand their borders to territories in more defensible geographies than the open and exposed frontiers from which they now suffer. The westernmost edge of Moscow’s perceived ideal security zone cuts right through Warsaw. The Germans (rightly) fear that they are on the verge of having to fight for markets, energy, and security in a manner than they have not had to for the past seven decades. Regardless of how the Germans choose to deal with their burgeoning problems, nearby Warsaw – willing or not – will feature large in the “solution”.

For more on Warsaw’s strategic quandary and how the Poles likely will fare – and fight – in the years ahead, see Chapter 11 of The Accidental Superpower.