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Ukrainian-Polish Relations Deteriorating With Warsaw No Longer Sending Weapons

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Ukrainian-Polish Relations Deteriorating With Warsaw No Longer Sending Weapons

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Written by Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

On September 20, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country is no longer sending weapons to Ukraine. The day before, Polish President Andrzej Duda told journalists that “Ukraine is behaving like a drowning person clinging to anything available”, adding that “a drowning person is extremely dangerous, capable of pulling you down to the depths … simply drowning the rescuer.”

Ukraine is currently at a commercial battle with its neighbors, including Poland, over agricultural bans. The same week, on September 18, Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Poland (and also Hungary, and Slovakia) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) pertaining to a ban on food imports.

On September 15, the European Commission decided not to extend a previous ban on the Ukrainian grain imports into Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and also Bulgaria and Romania. The ban had been imposed by the European Union in May, blocking domestic sale of maize, wheat, and sunflower seeds from Ukraine – and has now been revoked. Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, however, have announced they will keep enforcing such restrictions to protect the economic interests of their own farmers. Radoslaw Fogiel, who heads Poland’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission, was quoted by Reuters as saying that “our decision is not aimed at Ukraine, it is dictated by the protection of the Polish farmer and the protection of Poland’s interests.” Poland’s current Law and Justice party (PiS) government boasts great support precisely from farming regions. With the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict an influx of agricultural food products flowing into Poland ensued and this has caused a decline in prices which affects the local farmers from these neighboring countries.

Duda has indeed vowed to keep supporting Kiev, but it is now quite obvious that Polish-Ukrainian relations have been deteriorating, which is an interesting development, considering that Warsaw in fact had been one of the staunchest supporters of that country.

Already in May 2022, Poland and Ukraine were clearly taking steps towards a confederation – in spite of the historically complicated Ukrainian-Polish relations, made worse by post-Maidan Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and the two countries historical disagreements over key WWII issues, pertaining to genocide and to Ukraine’s nationalism connection to Nazism.

In any case, the so-called “Ukraine’s fatigue” has now also reached Poland’s public opinion, as former CNN journalist Sarah Fortinsky writes. A recent Reuters poll shows that support for Ukrainian refugees in Poland fell from 91 percent (in early 2022) to merely 69 percent. 25 percent of Poles today are actually against supporting them – in 2022 it was only 4 percent. The country has taken over a million refugees. In May, I wrote about Poland and other neighbors’ efforts to pressure Kiev into a peace deal – migration and economic issues have a lot to do with it.

It is true that some observers have been talking about a Polish “economic miracle”, which could even lead to “Polexit”, as analyst David Coombs notes in a Financial Times letter. For one thing, the Polish economy could surpass the UK one by 2030 (at current growth rates). Its GDP per capita is already higher than that of Portugal and Greece and could soon surpass Spain also. To say that Europe’s center of gravity is moving eastwards has become common sense – in May and then again in June I wrote on how the German-Polish dispute for hegemony in Europe is escalating.

In any case, Poland’s economic vigor should not be underestimated: for one thing, its reliance on foreign capital, according to political economist Jan Bogusławski, a German Marshall Fund of the United States fellow, still “casts a shadow”. The nation’s foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have reached unprecedented heights and the country in the last years has developed industrially by attracting Western investments – which often come “with caveats”. Such a structural dependence (described by political scientists Arjan Vliegenthart and Andreas Nölke as common to “Dependent Market Economies”) means an economic growth tied to a Western inflow of foreign capital – and profits being transferred abroad, thereby hampering the development of domestic companies.

This is why the PiS’ rhetoric in Poland has increasingly turned to economic nationalism and developmentalism – and this could be bad news to Kiev. More importantly, despite the economic growth, the cost of living driven by a very high inflation continues to affect millions of Poles and, in this context, Ukrainian refugees can become a convenient rhetorical target. Support for the PiS is declining, and, by April, support in the country for the radical right-wing party Konfederacja had already doubled to around 10% (compared to six months before). Anti-Ukrainian speeches are increasingly common among such political forces, which draw on the aforementioned historical grievances, and this could also influence the current government due to the electoral factor, plus domestic economic problems and the current trade dispute with Ukraine.

Nathan Alan-Lee, a School of Slavonic and East European Studies (University College London) researcher, wrote months ago on how the growth of the Konfederacja party could have an impact on Poland’s foreign policy. This is part of a larger trend that can be seen in the continent: European “populists” and the far-right have been successfully capitalizing the growing popular discontent with NATO and the EU itself, as one can see also in Germany and elsewhere. It is quite unfortunate that, in Europe, opposition to NATO and to suicidal economic policies have been largely marginalized to the point of almost becoming a monopoly of so-called extremist discourse – one should in any case expect this camp to grow.

Therefore, a factor of unpredictability still looms in the horizon, and Poland’s thus far seemingly consolidated strategic role as an Ukrainian key partner since February 2022 should not be taken for granted.

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Sunny

all theater. poland has nothing left to send and whatever bits and pieces they have, they’ll send without announcing it. though it does provide some comic relief to see 2 slave nations pretend like they are sovereign.

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Ray Douglas

don’t be fooled. elections bring smokescreen.

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kotromanic

they probably know that ukraine is on their last leg and soon poland will have to move in to fill in.

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