Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been told that he must not insult Poland amid a growing spat between the countries, which one expert told Newsweek is being driven by the upcoming Polish election.
Since Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Poland has been one of Kyiv’s biggest backers, pledging around 4.27 billion euros (about $4.54 billion) in military, financial and humanitarian aid.
But relations have soured in recent weeks after Warsaw said it would not suspend an EU ban on Ukrainian agricultural products that Brussels had imposed earlier this year, which aimed to protect European farmers.
Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Poland, as well as Slovakia and Hungary, which also intend to continue with the ban. Then Zelensky told the United Nations’ General Assembly on September 19 how some of their friends in Europe are demonstrating political theatre, which played into Moscow’s hands.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on April 5, 2023 in Warsaw, Poland. Morawiecki accused Zelensky on September 22, 2023 of insulting Poles amid a spat between the countries over a grain deal and weapons’ supplies.
Omar Marques/Getty Images
In response, Poland summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on social media that Warsaw would “no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland.” Newsweek has contacted the Polish and Ukrainian foreign ministries by email for comment.
Polish President Andrzej Duda walked back Morawiecki’s comments. He said that they referred to new weapons being purchased for the Polish army and that Warsaw would still transfer its older weapons not required for modernizing Poland’s armed forces.
But Morawiecki took aim at Zelensky again on Friday, telling a rally in the city of Swidnik, Poland, that the Ukrainian leader must “never insult Poles again.”
“The Polish people will never allow this to happen,” Morawiecki said, adding that “defending the good name of Poland” was both “my duty and honor.”
Despite Morawiecki’s declaration, “Warsaw’s militarily support for Ukraine will not substantially change,” said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
Buras told Newsweek that ties between Kyiv and Warsaw have become “hostage to the Polish electoral campaign.” The ruling national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) and the far right Konfederacja are vying for the nationalist and anti-Ukrainian vote in Poland.
But Buras did not expect Poland’s growing assertiveness regarding Ukraine to end any time soon. Its parliamentary election on October 15 is likely to be followed by a lengthy period in which the government is formed, and a snap election in spring 2024 “cannot be ruled out.”
Buras said that the European elections in 2024 and the presidential elections the following year “will also shape the political debate in which the crumbling consensus on the support for Ukraine will play an important role.”
“The decrease in supplies is not due to a lack of political will, but to the depletion of Polish resources,” said Buras. He added that Morawiecki’s comments were “mainly aimed at a domestic audience that has become skeptical about Ukraine due to recent controversies over grain imports and historical issues. ” » …