Espreso. Global
Interview

Union for centuries: Ukraine and Europe must join forces to deter future Russian aggression – politician Mirosław Czech

29 January, 2024 Monday
19:30

Polish politician Mirosław Czech, in an interview with Antin Borkovskyi, host of Espreso's Studio West program, discussed the potential collaboration between Ukraine, Poland, and the EU

Donald Tusk, President Zelenskyy, and Denys Shmyhal recently held discussions focusing on a comprehensive reset – introducing new perspectives on NATO's eastern flank encompassing economic, social, and security policies. This goes beyond the scope of Polish-Ukrainian relations, highlighting the symbolic nature of Donald Tusk's inaugural foreign visit as the head of the Polish government to Kyiv.

Poland and Ukraine are initiating discussions for a security guarantees agreement, aligning with the Group of Seven's statement from Vilnius and last year's NATO summit. Similar to the agreement between Great Britain and Ukraine signed during Prime Minister Sunak's visit in January, the process of developing a bilateral document is underway.

This marks a crucial development, as the previous Polish government, led by Morawiecki, refrained from endorsing this significant declaration, raising concerns about a potential withdrawal of support for Ukraine by Poland. Today, Poland has reversed this stance, reaffirming military support for Ukraine, as confirmed by President Zelenskyy, who mentioned the preparation of a military aid package from Poland.

Another outcome of Tusk's visit is the appointment of prominent politician Pavlo Koval as the representative of the Polish government for Ukraine's reconstruction. Koval, known for his sympathy toward Ukraine and currently serving as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, adds substance to the cooperation, moving beyond mere declarations.

Regarding specific matters such as agriculture and transportation, Prime Minister Shmyhal highlighted ongoing progress. A draft law in the Ukrainian parliament aims to equalize the rights of Polish and Ukrainian carriers. 

In Poland, there's an invitation for Polish companies to contribute to the construction of the autobahn from Kraków to Rivne, simplifying transportation for Lviv residents.

The third aspect addresses concerns related to Ukrainian agricultural product exports to Poland. Poland appears to be leaning toward adopting the Romanian model, implementing a license system for Ukrainian exporters in specific cases, such as excessive imports of certain products like grain or corn.

This comprehensive and pragmatic approach signifies a tangible cooperation package, addressing issues that have been hindering bilateral relations for over half a year.

There seemingly wasn't any indication of trouble in the relationship between Presidents Zelenskyy and Andrzej Duda before the powerful scandals emerged. Is there a risk of similar incidents occurring now?

Let's be straightforward about what occurred: there was an embargo on four types of agricultural products, previously extending to all types. Alongside the border closure, this amounted to Poland engaging in a trade war with Ukraine. Although we didn't explicitly label it as such to avoid escalating tensions, it was, in reality, a unique trade war that inflicted losses on Ukraine - with thousands of trucks blocked from entering, carrying humanitarian aid, regular commercial goods, and military assistance.

This conflict also caused harm to the Polish economy. Typically, considering the trade balance between Ukraine and Poland, Poland benefits, from exporting more than it imports from Ukraine. Fortunately, during these two war-torn years, Donald Tusk, as Prime Minister, comprehended the situation and utilized his influence to resolve it.

We've moved past that chapter. I'm confident that under the current government, there won't be a return to such a state. The primary assurance of this lies in the leadership of Donald Tusk.

Do you think this year might be influenced by two Donalds, Donald Tusk in Eastern European politics, and Donald Trump in continental security politics?

The rise of Donald Tusk to power in Poland signifies a reshaping of Poland's position in the EU and in terms of security. Donald Tusk, not just as the Polish Prime Minister but as one of Europe's most prominent political figures, will play a substantial role in European affairs. Ongoing negotiations for the restoration of the Weimar Triangle – France, Germany, and Poland – underscore Poland's heightened importance under Prime Minister Tusk compared to the times of Jarosław Kaczyński or Andrzej Duda. The significance of relations between Ukraine and Poland in this context cannot be overstated.

Now, turning to Donald Trump, closely monitoring the primaries and the unfolding political landscape reveals intriguing dynamics. While many have discounted Nikki Haley's chances, the New Hampshire primary results, a 55-44 split in favor of Trump, suggest a competitive race. Although some experts argue otherwise, insisting Haley is in a losing position, I personally don't see her as a clear loser.

Observations indicate Trump's dissatisfaction with the primaries.

Considering a third of Republican voters express an unwillingness to support him under any circumstances and another undecided segment, characterized by skepticism, the negative perception of Trump is growing. Despite Trump currently leading Biden by 3-4%, suggesting he can't be defeated, the evolving situation challenges this assumption.

Contrary to popular belief, the Republican primaries reveal Trump's dominance within the party doesn't necessarily translate to absolute support among Republican voters.

Anyway, Trump is back in significant political action, shaping the US political agenda before the election. The election's outcome is uncertain, but Trump's influence is evident. He's sending signals, though decoding them is challenging as he maintains geopolitical mystery, essentially bluffing about having a plan. Given his political track record, Europeans vividly recall his threats to diminish US influence in Europe: "Europeans, pay more for your security."

Europeans now consider global perspectives, understanding that the US is objectively gearing up to counter China. China's influence is waning, with a weakening economy. However, there's the "isolated" Kim Jong-un, posing challenges in Asia that the Americans must address. India, with its evolving nationalist agenda, adds complexity. Who knows if they'll aspire to some form of empire too.

Or they should address returning Pakistan, which they attempt periodically.

The United States has a lot of things to do. Russia poses a threat, acknowledged by all Europeans as an existential one to Europe. Europe must ready itself for a potential confrontation with Russia and not overly depend on American assistance. Regarding Trump, it's crucial to note that the election is 11 months away. The current President of the USA is Joe Biden; inquiries should be directed to him. While understanding all schedules, it's essential to emphasize that Trump is not the current president – Joe Biden holds that position.

Discussions should center on Joe Biden's plans for Ukraine and his commitments to Europe.

American observers, journalists, and experts emphasize the crucial role of an activated Great Britain and the united stance of both the Conservatives and the Labor Party. Their upcoming fall elections maintain a consistent position on security issues – support for Ukraine, reinforcement of NATO, and strengthening the European component.

The discourse from the British Minister of Defense interpreting security guarantees for Ukraine is truly remarkable.

A particularly impactful phrase caught my attention – Great Britain affirmed that their alliance with Ukraine is for a century; they will not abandon Ukraine. Russia, disregard any thoughts of Great Britain forsaking Ukraine. This statement holds immense significance.

How many F-16s are part of this statement? I understand your point, but back in 1939, the Republic of Poland had robust treaties with France and the United Kingdom. Aid was provided, but during the "Strange War," there were challenges. Our European allies are expressing their readiness, but the decision on aviation is still pending.

Colonel Ihnat mentioned today that our partners are prepared to deliver F-16s to Ukraine immediately. There's been no change since our last discussion; the Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian F-16s are ready for transfer to Ukraine. However, our current challenge lies in lacking the necessary infrastructure to receive and maintain them.

The situation is similar with the Leopard tanks. Germany's Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, stated that in 2024, Germany will train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers and deliver 80 Leopards. The issue lies in the repair facilities and spare parts. It may sound absurd, but after the Cold War, Europe disarmed, and the military-industrial complex followed suit — prioritizing exports over domestic needs. Consequently, in facing the Russian-Ukrainian war, they are slowly ramping up.

So, what's my point? In 2024, the situation is evolving to a different level.

A comprehensive system of alliances, alongside political, military, and economic decisions, is taking shape. Ukraine will receive the necessary resources to overcome Russia. Furthermore, Ukraine will fortify its forces to such an extent that any notion of Russia attacking Ukraine or other nations becomes unthinkable.

In essence, a new configuration is emerging. Whether Trump is president or not becomes less crucial at this moment, as the system is operational, states are functioning, and their armed forces and military-industrial complexes are in action.

Europe is amid a wave of elections, with almost half of the EU countries holding national elections this year. Right-wing populists seem to be gaining ground. Slovakia surprised us by electing Fico's party, and we're witnessing noteworthy developments in the Netherlands and Belgium.

So what?

Who holds sway – elected politicians or certain elites?

Elites, no. Decisions are made by elected governments, coalitions, and politicians. Amid the ongoing war and tension, Germany's Minister of Defense stated that they must brace for the possibility of Russia waging war against Germany by 2030. This marks a significant shift in Germany's security mindset. Notably, Sweden and Norway anticipate being prepared for a potential Russian war within the next two to three years, and Finland anticipates this as well, for sure.

The situation varies radically, with roles clearly defined, as seen in Germany. Parliamentary elections are on the horizon next year, and public opinion polls indicate support for the Christian Democrats, who departed from Angela Merkel's era and now challenge Chancellor Scholz for not sufficiently backing Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Alternative für Deutschland has seen a 50% drop in support within six months. Germans, rallying against the threat of Alternative für Deutschland, shocked many, including Steinmeier. Authorities are now considering documentation from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to potentially ban the party, deeming it a threat to constitutional order. Such processes weren't visible six months ago.

Returning to Poland, their parliamentary elections on October 15 resonated throughout Europe. Democrats demonstrated their ability to win, showcasing that societies can mobilize for protection. Ukrainians are impressing the world with their heroism and sacrifice against Goliath; Poland highlights a non-military approach, proving that democrats and pro-European societies can triumph.

How committed will Great Britain be to defending Ukrainian national interests given its resources, which aren't as robust as those of the USA? This relates to Poland as well.

You brought up 1939 and the security assurances from Great Britain to Poland during the Weird War. It's crucial to reflect not on their readiness but on the role played by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, or the Hitler-Stalin Pact, in undermining these assurances. 

These guarantees failed due to the pact, which was aimed against the security commitments of Great Britain and France. Hitler wouldn't have risked war with Poland, facing potential fronts in his rear, without the aggression of the Red Army on March 17, 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the division of spheres of influence, known by the British and Americans on the second day, made it evident. Agents in the Third Reich's Moscow embassy quickly translated the information; everyone knew war wasn't about defending Poland but rather a global conflict. This was also apparent on August 23, 1939.

Regarding the guarantees from Great Britain, what significance do they hold? The Defense Minister, discussing assurances to Ukraine and the century-old British-Ukrainian alliance, mentioned strengthening nuclear forces and constructing 12 nuclear submarines. This translates directly into enhanced security. Both the American and British components are growing significantly.

Additionally, former Ukrainian Ambassador to Great Britain Prystayko, a highly qualified diplomat, responded affirmatively to the question, "Can you envision British soldiers coming to Ukraine's defense?" saying, "Yes, I can imagine such a situation."

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