Yves here. If you’ve been following the Ukraine war, you may have noticed the disconnect between reports touting the idea that Poland might be prepared to intervene militarily or find some pretext for a less aggressive takeover of parts of Western Ukraine versus Warsaw and Kiev trading barbs. Note that the reports pressing the idea that Poland might Do Something also overlook that the Polish military was reported as being not keen about intervention. Polish voters are also souring on Project Ukraine, due among other reasons to the refugee influx hitting a level where Poles are reported to be worried about dilution of their culture.
But Ukraine is its own worst enemy. Ukraine officials has been constantly whinging for more support as if it were a matter of right and being openly dissatisfied about what they are getting. That posture led Biden to rebuke Zelensky privately a while back.
At the start of August, a Polish presidential aide complained that Ukraine was not grateful for the support it was getting. That led Ukraine to take the high-handed step of Ukraine summoning the Polish ambassador for a dressing-down (this sort of thing is usually reserved for more serious and substantive rows). As Euronews points out, Polish unhappiness about Ukraine grain undercutting Polish farmers is another source of tension:
Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania have all seen their domestic grain production and relative compatibility in the EU single market – which they belong to and Ukraine does not – suffer due to copious amounts of cheaper grain flooding the market.
The UN brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine in July of 2022…
Soon after, farmers in EU nations bordering Ukraine complained that the grain was making its way into EU markets and that their locally produced grain – which is subject to EU regulations, taxes and other mechanisms and thus automatically more expensive – was being cast aside.
As a result, these countries independently imposed a ban on importing Ukrainian grain in April.
Unilateral import bans risk violating the principle of a common EU market…
In response, the European Commission adopted an exceptional measure which replaced the national import bans with an EU-approved ban for the five…
The measure is due to expire on 15 September.
However, Poland has said it will not lift its individual ban if the EU chooses to not extend this measure.
The Andrew Korybko post below has more details on the progress of the spat.
By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website
Casual observers might be shocked by the Polish leader’s candidness, while Kiev’s supporters might accuse him of “betraying” their regime after becoming the first Western leader to debunk its top two lies nowadays, but his words weren’t unprovoked nor said in a vacuum. The background is that political ties between these wartime allies have tremendously worsened since late July after both sides finally began prioritizing their contradictory national interests.
Two of Kiev’s top propaganda narratives nowadays are that it’s selflessly sacrificing itself for the sake of the West by fighting Russia instead of surrendering and that its ongoing counteroffensive is succeeding in pushing that country’s forces out of Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders. The first largely remains above official criticism or skepticism since those who dare to doubt it risk being “canceled”, but the second has suddenly begun to be debunked by the Mainstream Media as proven by the following articles:
* The Hill: “Alarm grows as Ukraine’s counteroffensive falters”
* Washington Post: “Slow counteroffensive darkens mood in Ukraine”
In the face of this rapidly shifting narrative that threatens to topple one of the pillars of Kiev’s Western-directed propaganda, Zelensky’s senior advisor Mikhail Podolyak lashed out at critics in a tweet thread here where he demanded that they “be patient and closely monitor” his side’s progress. Polish President Andrzej Duda has been doing precisely that since the NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine began, however, and he’s concluded that Kiev isn’t doing the West any favors and its counteroffensive failed.
He dropped both bombshells, the first of which debunked the claim that Kiev is selflessly sacrificing itself for the sake of the West and which hitherto hadn’t ever been officially challenged by any Western leader before, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen from 1 August that was published nine days later. The relevant excerpts will be republished below for the reader’s convenience before analyzing them in the context of this conflict and evolving Polish-Ukrainian ties in particular:
“Q: At the NATO summit when President [Volodymyr] Zelensky criticized the [leaders’ joint statement about Ukraine’s prospective membership], there was criticism of him that he was ungrateful for all the help [given to] Ukraine. That suggests that our help to Ukraine is charity. Is our help to Ukraine charity, or is Ukraine really doing us a favor by giving its children, its lives to defend us against the Russian threat?
A: I would say it this way: I don’t see it in these categories — neither that we are doing an act of charity for Ukraine, nor that Ukraine is doing charity for us…We are sending them arms. Why? Because we want to support them in defending their own territory.
We Poles have many reasons to supply Ukrainians with weapons. … But the whole democratic world also knows that any aggressor who violates the borders of a democratic state in the 21st century in Europe must be stopped.”
Q: Could Poland fight a combined arms operation without long-range weapons and without air power? Because that’s what we’re forcing the Ukrainians to do today. What does Ukraine need that it’s not getting today?
A: Ukraine has been supplied with long-range artillery, and it is being supplied with long-range artillery to this day. … One could go as far as to say that Ukraine now has much more modern military capabilities than Russia.
The question is: Does Ukraine have enough weapons to change the balance of the war and get the upper hand? And the answer is probably no. They probably do not have enough weapons. And we know this by the fact that they’re not currently able to carry out a very decisive counteroffensive against the Russian military. To make a long story short, they need more assistance.”
Casual observers might be shocked by the Polish leader’s candidness, while Kiev’s supporters might accuse him of “betraying” their regime after becoming the first Western leader to debunk its top two lies nowadays, but his words weren’t unprovoked nor said in a vacuum. The background is that political ties between these wartime allies have tremendously worsened since late July as was documented in the following analyses:
In brief, each side finally began prioritizing their national interests, which resulted in public tensions due to the absence of any pressure valve for dealing with sensitive disagreements such as those over agricultural cooperation and historical memory. Moreover, each side has self-interested political reasons in escalating rhetoric against the other: Ukraine wants to distract from its failing counteroffensive while the ruling Polish party wants to rally its nationalist base ahead of mid-October’s elections.
It was against this backdrop that Duda did the previously unthinkable by telling one of the US’ most influential Mainstream Media outlets that Kiev isn’t doing the West any favors by fighting Russia and that its counteroffensive failed. Granted, he conveyed these two points in a “polite” way that signaled his continued support for NATO’s proxy war on Russia through Ukraine, but it’s still an unforgivable offense from that regime’s perspective.
NBC News warned earlier this month that Kiev and its supporters are worried about losing control of the narrative, which has now come to pass after what Duda just said. He and his country are much more popular and less polarizing among average Westerners than Zelensky and Ukraine, plus nobody doubts their anti-Russian credentials due to widespread awareness of Poland’s difficult history with that country. These observations mean that his words will likely have an outsized impact on reshaping the narrative.
As for the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations, it’s looking dimmer by the day due to their spiraling disputes becoming self-sustaining at this stage. That’s not to suggest that Warsaw will cut Kiev off from arms and other forms of support, but just that the trust which used to characterize their relations since February was finally exposed as illusory. This could complicate their reported plans to form a joint military unit and could lead to Poland acting unilaterally in Western Ukraine in the worst-case scenario.