Espreso. Global

Poland and Ukraine march towards gallows of history — Vitaly Portnikov

21 February, 2024 Wednesday

The so-called protest of farmers on the Poland-Ukraine border is gaining momentum with each passing day

We can already talk not only about yet another dumped Ukrainian grain but also about threats to halt passenger transportation at the border. Of course, this protest currently threatens not only the Ukrainian economy—it jeopardizes Ukrainian survival in the difficult struggle against Russia, especially at a time when we are awaiting assistance from the West, particularly the United States.

“Political confrontation is escalating: when both the President of Ukraine and representatives of Ukrainian foreign policy, as well as the Ukrainian ambassador to Poland, speak about the politicization of this protest, we hear from Polish officials that it is simply careless statements and that Polish farmers are defending a just cause.”

Certainly, this will not foster a normal atmosphere in relations between the two neighboring countries not only in the coming months but also in the coming years, and possibly even decades. Despite the assistance provided by Poland to Ukraine at the beginning of the great Russian invasion, grounds are already being laid for a serious conflict, I would even say, a civilization rift between the two neighboring countries, which will only contribute to the Kremlin's successes.

Naturally, I hoped that after the parliamentary elections in Poland, mechanisms would be found to halt the protest, which was clearly used to benefit right-wing and ultra-right forces in the parliamentary elections in Poland. However, like many others, I underestimated the fact that Polish politicians seamlessly transition from one election to another and are unwilling to lose opportunities for victory, even at the cost of effectively undermining the national strategic interests of their own country.

“Today, Poland is governed by a rather fragile coalition, part of which is interested in the votes of Polish peasants and does not want to give these votes to their right-wing and ultra-right opponents. Furthermore, they are more closely associated with these opponents than with their coalition partners, and are only separated by years of effectively one-party rule by the Law and Justice party and its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński.”

Thus, the real opportunities for the Polish government to halt the situation, which today threatens both Ukrainian survival and Polish-Ukrainian relations, as well as the European project as a whole, are diminishing with each passing day. The crisis situation that will become commonplace in the relations between Ukraine and Poland is advancing.

One could argue that this is indeed the same situation that was bound to occur, given the atmosphere of Polish-Ukrainian relations over the past decade. Ultimately, Poland itself stands to lose, as Ukraine increasingly leans towards the necessity of real interaction with Western European countries, particularly Germany and France, where there is no serious interest in halting Ukraine's progress towards Europe.

“When Ukraine moves towards real European integration and all the restrictions insisted upon by Polish farmers are finally lifted, it could lead to even more extensive, hysterical reactions and potentially prompt Warsaw to block our country's European integration altogether.”

However, I wouldn't simplify the situation to the point where Ukraine sees Poland merely as a transit territory for relations with Germany, France, and other Western European countries. Both Ukrainians and Poles have a stake in normal relations, even if it's not obvious right now. It's conceivable to imagine what will happen if Ukraine fails to win the war with Russia. If Russian President Putin realizes his ambitious plan and Russia under Putin becomes the Soviet Union of Gorbachev, meaning it reaches the state borders of the USSR of 1991. This is the main political goal of the Russian leader and his compatriots infected with chauvinistic beliefs. And for this, Russians are willing to pay any price—in human lives, money, and in the long term.

What will happen to Poland then?

I'm not here to scare the Poles by suggesting that the next country to be occupied by Russia will be Poland itself or the Baltic countries. I don't believe in a large-scale nuclear war resulting in the demise of civilizations on the European continent—at least not yet. However, the possibility exists, and we've heard about it repeatedly from Russian leaders.

But I believe in the voter—the voter who simply becomes frightened by the strengthening of Russia and will seek politicians who can find ways to engage with Moscow. In other words, they'll realize that Poland's survival lies not in confrontation, but in cooperation with the great Russia on Polish borders—yes, right where Polish farmers are currently blocking the border with Ukraine, there will be Russian border guards, and no one will block anything because they'll be swiftly and clearly dealt with, just as the Russians do. They will create provocations against Poland themselves, which will force the removal of any farmers from the borders.

“In such a situation, the Polish voter would indeed hand power in the country to pro-Russian forces. This would lead to, at best, the Orbánization of Poland.”

And so I would like to ask: where would there be a place for Donald Tusk, Jarosław Kaczyński, and their political heirs in such a country? The answer is clear: nowhere. Kaczyński and Tusk will simply remain on the yellowed pages of history textbooks—as reflections of Poland that existed for several decades but has vanished. Just like the Poland of the pre-war period that existed before World War II.

Here is the real civilization perspective of Poland in the event of Ukraine's defeat—zero. And that's why the Poles should consider assistance to our country, even if it contradicts the current economic interests of certain citizens and the electoral interests of certain politicians.

However, the inability to think strategically has repeatedly led both Poland and Ukraine to the scaffold of history. Now we are walking down that very path, I would say, confidently marching.


About the author. Vitaly Portnikov, journalist, Shevchenko National Prize winner.

The editors do not always endorse the opinions expressed by blog authors.

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