Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘Failed romance’: Kyiv, Warsaw fall out ahead of elections – Times of India

Must read

WARSAW: Once close ties between Poland and Ukraine have plunged in the run-up to Sunday’s Polish elections, experts said, much to the dismay of the United States and European Union.

While the memory of Poles taking in millions of Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s invasion will live on, bilateral ties have become distinctly chilly.

“Polish-Ukrainian relations are deteriorating, largely because of the (election) campaign,” said Marcin Zaborowski, an expert at the Globsec think tank.

“The ruling populist Law and Justice (PiS) party is bidding for anti-Ukrainian votes also wanted by the far-right party Confederation,” Zaborowski said.

Analysts said the risk is that PiS will sacrifice long-term foreign policy for the sake of short-term domestic political gains.

Fearful of losing votes in its rural strongholds, in September the government extended an embargo on Ukrainian grain imports, prompting Ukraine to appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Poland which has been one of Ukraine’s biggest arms suppliers responded by saying it would restrict arms deliveries to Kyiv as it needed to build up its own army.

A very public diplomatic row ensued, with Polish President Andrzej Duda comparing Ukraine to a “drowning man” who risked dragging his rescuers into the water.

Speaking at the UN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of some EU countries “feigning solidarity” and thereby “indirectly supporting Russia”.

Poland interpreted his remarks as directed at Warsaw, and summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to be reprimanded.

Poles ‘more sceptical’

Poland currently hosts around a million Ukrainian refugees, higher than any other country except Germany.

But according to a poll by the CBOS Institute, support for Ukrainian refugees in Poland fell from 76 percent in July to 65 percent in September its lowest level since the start of the war.

“Some of the PiS electorate believed the party was too favourable to Ukraine so the government changed that… hence the tensions on grain and arms,” Zaborowski said.

He said the PiS party had “also realised that Poles are becoming more and more sceptical about relations with Ukraine.”

Another poll by the Ibris Institute showed that around 40 percent of Poles are opposed to extending rights for Ukrainians to access the labour market, healthcare, education and social services.

“The war and all the positive atmosphere around assistance have slightly concealed old problems which are not going to go away conflicts over the past and economic interests, including those linked to Ukraine’s future membership of the EU,” Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw-based ECFR think tank, told AFP.

A kind of betrayal
Ukraine no longer sees Poland as a strategic partner, according to experts, and is now powerful enough in its own right to speak directly to European Union leaders.

“Ukraine no longer needs Warsaw to talk to Brussels, Berlin or other European capitals,” Buras said.

“Sometimes its involvement is (even) counter-productive, since Poland’s position in the EU is weak,” he added.

According to Michal Baranowski from the German Marshall Fund (GMF), this change in Kyiv is badly viewed by Warsaw.

“Some Polish officials feel it as if it was a failed romance. They see it as a kind of betrayal by Kyiv,” he told AFP.

The fact that the two sides are falling out publicly is also “a big problem for the United States for whom it is essential to maintain unity among allies,” he said.

“From the point of view of Washington, the Polish-Ukrainian alliance is crucial for the security of the region,” he said.

Zaborowski said Poland was “losing an opportunity for a strategic partnership with Kyiv which would change European security forever.”

“After the elections, it may be too late to go back on this since the damage will have been done,” he said.

Latest article