Politicians spend more time in posturing. Their behaviour is largely driven by the desperation to win elections. Polish politicians are no exception. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the Law and Justice party, aka PiS, is trying to protect his vote bank by vowing not to send fresh consignments of weapons to embattled Ukraine. However, this determination will not end the grain dispute both the countries are embroiled in. But, it is sure to set off ripples globally.
Desperate for Posturing
A restive Morawiecki is aiming to buy his voters’ confidence by suggesting that he will not place Ukraine’s interests above Poland’s. Not surprising that he is saying Poland would not supply Ukraine any weapons beyond what has been promised. Though casual European observers may wonder why a committed backer of Ukraine like Poland would take such a stand, those clued into Polish politics will surely understand.
For starters, Mr Morawiecki is facing a national election on October 15th. He has a fierce far-right party to defeat. Desperate for posturing, he has begun to sound like an opportunistic nationalist. His declaration that Poland would no longer transfer any weapons to Ukraine should be viewed against this motivation. Further, Mr Morawiecki saying that this decision became necessary as Poland needs to arm itself with most modern weapons confirms his irresistible itch. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/09/21/europe/poland-ukraine- weapons-grain-explainer-intl/index.html
Video Courtesy: YouTube/Al Jazeera English
Patting and Hitting at the Same Time
Amidst this posturing, Mr Morawiecki’s lack of concern for traditional ally Ukraine’s security is astounding. As a professional politician, he is trying to allay Ukraine’s fears by declaring that Poland “will certainly not risk Ukraine’s security.” He is assuring Ukraine that the transit hub of Rzeszow, used for directing Western arms to Ukraine, would continue. This is patting Ukraine and hitting it under the belt at the same time.
Why the change of mind when Poland has been backing Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian aggression in February 2022? Poland has been Ukraine’s voice in the European Union and the driving force of Ukraine’s united front against its aggressor. As a good neighbour, Poland has been hosting Ukraine’s logistics bases for weapon supplies. Above all, Poland has been home to over 1.7m Ukrainian war refugees. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/21/world/europe/poland- ukraine-weapons-grain.html
Poland is Confusing and Contradictory
Despite such a show of enduring support, if Poland has decided to stop supplying new weapons to Ukraine, there must have been strong motivation. This motivation springs from the Law and Justice Party’s compulsion to adopt populist political posturing, particularly after Poland decided recently to disobey the European Union’s diktat to do away with the temporary ban on duty-free Ukrainian agricultural imports.
However, Mr Morawiecki’s stand is confusing and contradictory. Not so if the fact that he is a politician with an eye on the next election is appreciated. The anxiety over protecting his vote bank has pushed him not only to stop supplies of new weapons to Ukraine, but also to protect his farmers who are upset with dipping prices. His farmers have been furious over cheap Ukrainian grain pouring in, which they see as the cause for falling prices. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/21/poland-to-halt- supply-of-weapons-to-ukraine-as-grain-dispute-grows
Affinity for Political Posturing
As if these were not enough, Mr Morawiecki is beginning to feel the political heat as the far-right Konfederacja is getting too close for comfort. As Konfederacja has been clamouring for reduced assistance for Ukraine, the no-new-arms-supplies to Ukraine posturing has become necessary. Moreover, Poland is about to exhaust its inventory of Russian weapons as it has already supplied to Ukraine weapons worth over $3bn till date. This does not mean an end to Poland’s affair with Ukraine and to its anti-Russian cause.
Yet, the change of attitude in new-arms supplies Poland’s affinity for populist political posturing. All the more because the polls are scheduled for October 15th. Such a proximate date is compelling Mr Morawiecki to balance fresh arms supplies and grain imports. He has the unenviable task of ensuring his posturing does not end in great public disagreement. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-hold- parliamentary-election-oct-15-says-president-2023-08-08/
Ukraine is not Humoured
Desperate for this balancing, Mr Morawiecki has now joined hands with Hungary and Slovakia to slap unilateral ban on sale of Ukrainian agricultural exports within its borders. Again for the same reason cheap produce inflows from Ukraine have been hitting local farmers. Slovakia too is all set for polls towards the end of September and it cannot afford to rub its framers the wrong way.
Ukraine is not humoured. Angry with the ban, it is protesting at the World Trade Organization. Even as Poland and Ukraine try to find an amicable way out, political posturing of the former continues. Both the nations may soon agree with the idea of Ukraine licensing its exporters for regulating grain flows. Yet, Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, feels it is funny that his European friends are producing “a thriller from the grain.” https://apnews.com/article/ukraine-wto-complaint-europe- grain-ban-2bdecbd0d0c4e46f2f24f33d858bf8f1
Ukraine Not on a Strong Wicket
In fact, Mr Zelensky is insinuating that some of his European friends are aiding Russia. Politicos are sure that he is implying that Poland is playing into Russia’s hands and they cite Poland slapping a ban on imports of grains from Ukraine as evidence. Though the Polish president Andrzej Duda likened Ukraine to “a drowning person clinging to anything available,” the latter is unfazed as arms largely flow in now from the United States. Yet, Ukraine is not on a strong wicket.
Some Republicans in the United States are questioning arms aid to Ukraine. Joining sceptical Republicans is the Law and Justice Party’s far-right opponent, which is clamouring for a slash on supply of arms to Ukraine, saying there is “Ukraine fatigue” in Poland. As Mr Morawiecki’s party has a strong base in the farming regions, the prime minister is anxious and thus leaning on political posturing for his political safety. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polands-pis-faces-far- right-challenge-over-ukraine-support-2023-09-19/
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
At the end of it, Poland’s political posturing will end hurting Ukraine’s cause and peace in Europe. Both Ukraine and Poland would have squandered the golden opportunity to fight Russia together on a united front. Mr Morawiecki’s desperate posturing to protect his vote bank will eventually leave the European Union hurt and will maim its defeat-Russia efforts. Political posturing has only pains and no pleasures. It is a tragedy that Mr Morawiecki does not realise this.