The purpose behind provoking Russia into this is threefold: 1) PiS hopes to manipulate and subsequently exploit optics of this scandal in order to cultivate more support ahead of this fall’s elections; 2) Poland then plans to pressure the rest of the EU to formally cut off ties with Russia “out of solidarity”; and finally, 3) Warsaw wants to present itself to Washington as its most reliable anti-Russian ally.
Poland’s ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party is hellbent on provoking Russia into being the first to formally cut off bilateral relations as proven by Warsaw’s earlier seizing of its embassy’s bank account on ridiculous “anti-terrorist” pretexts and Saturday’s police raid against an embassy-run school in the capital. The Kremlin is therefore under immense pressure to respond to these developments, though it’s unclear at the time of this analysis’ publication whether it’ll do what Poland expects.
The purpose behind provoking Russia into this course of action is threefold: 1) PiS hopes to manipulate and subsequently exploit optics of this scandal in order to cultivate more support ahead of this fall’s elections; 2) Poland then plans to pressure the rest of the EU to formally cut off ties with Russia “out of solidarity”; and finally, 3) Warsaw wants to present itself to Washington as its most reliable anti-Russian ally. Each of these interconnected goals will now be briefly expanded upon.
Regarding the first, PiS fears that genuinely conservative-patriotic forces will flock to the anti-establishment Confederation party as an act of protest against the ruling one’s support for mass immigration from Ukraine over the past year. That could compel it to enter into a coalition government after this fall’s elections, which might reduce the intensity of Poland’s anti-Russian policies. Accordingly, they hope to exploit voters’ Russophobia to scare them into supporting the incumbents no matter what.
As for the second, Germany and Poland are fiercely competing for leadership over Central & Eastern Europe (CEE), but Warsaw has an edge when it comes to winning hearts and minds since it’s always one step ahead of Berlin in appealing to the region’s Russophobia. If Poland can successfully pressure Germany to follow its lead in formally cutting off ties with Russia if the latter is coerced into cutting them off first after this weekend’s incident, then it would be a major soft power victory.
Concerning the third, Poland’s envisaged restoration of its former “sphere of influence” is dependent on the US’ support, which can only be assured if it convinces American policymakers that their successfully reasserted hegemony over the EU is symbiotically dependent on these plans. To that end, Warsaw must show Washington that it’s more capable of leading the latter’s anti-Russian crusade in the EU during the New Cold War than Berlin is, hence the importance of provoking crises and getting Germany to follow.
These goals are all interconnected since the abovementioned grand strategy is purely PiS’ own creation. It therefore naturally follows that their potential loss of power after this fall’s elections – whether in whole if it’s replaced by the German-backed “Civic Platform” (PO) opposition or in part via a coalition with Confederation – could impede its regional plans and thus also the US’ to an extent as well. That’s why the latest diplomatic crisis with Russia was cooked up in order to help PiS stay in power.
Everything else proceeds from that scenario since their continued leadership of Poland would keep Warsaw in the race with Berlin for hearts and minds across CEE, thus giving Washington the option of choosing between them (or even cynically playing those two against each other) as its top EU partner. PiS’ potential removal from this geopolitical calculation in the event that voters punish it at the polls this fall could therefore have far-reaching consequences for the region and even for the New Cold War.