Everything that the ruling party has said and done thus far confirms that it’s doubling down on its suggestion that the opposition will implement a post-modern Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact if it returns to power, which will deprive Poland of its sovereignty while leaving its borders intact. Observers will find out in less than two months during the 15 October elections whether this narrative resonates enough to keep the incumbents in office or if voters will reject it to replace them instead.
Poland’s ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party hopes to remain in power by scaring Poles into voting for it on the basis of national security ahead of fall’s general elections. This strategy became evident several months ago when it formed a so-called “Russian influence commission” for investigating those who allegedly advanced the Kremlin’s interests. The following analyses explain why that move is interpreted as targeting the “Civic Platform” (PO) opposition, which is a German-backed liberal–globalist party:
Diplomatic and military tensions predictably worsened with Russia in the run-up to the commission’s creation and of course afterwards, but interestingly enough, so too did ties with Germany and Ukraine. Relevant analyses about the deterioration of these last two pairs of bilateral relations were documented in this recent piece about how “Germany’s Promised Military Patronage Of Ukraine Ramps Up Its Regional Competition With Poland”.
The three latest developments build upon the observation that PiS is making fall’s general elections all about national security, particularly with respect to Russia and Germany. President Duda gave a speech last Tuesday during Polish Armed Forces Day that his official website promoted under the title “Poland’s security comes first”. In it, he lambasted the prior PO-led government for reducing troop numbers, pulling forces back from the eastern border, and allegedly making the Vistula Poland’s line of defense.
Two days later, parliament approved four referenda questions that’ll be asked during the 15 October elections about accepting illegal migrants, weakening border defenses, privatizing state companies, and raising the retirement age, all of which PiS accuses PO of secretly plotting despite its denials. It also passed a resolution against foreign interference in the vote, which publicly financed Polskie Radio cited ruling party lawmakers to describe as a response to a recent statement by Manfred Weber.
He’s a top German member of the European Parliament who leads the European People’s Party. During an interview in early August, Weber said that PiS “systematically attack[s] the rule of law and free media”, which prompted Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski to accuse him in a tweet of supporting regime change in order to advance Germany’s economic interests in Poland. Framed in this way, the alleged German threat to Poland equals Russia’s alleged one, and even arguably surpasses it.
That’s not to say that PiS isn’t hyping up the alleged Russian threat since Duda’s previously mentioned speech makes it abundantly clear that this country is considered Poland’s top conventional and unconventional security threat. Regarding the second dimension of this assessment, the Washington Post published a detailed report on Friday citing Polish intelligence officials who claimed to have busted a nationwide espionage and sabotage ring run by Russia which recruited Belarusians and Ukrainians.
Irrespective of whether it’s the full truth, nothing but lies, or a blend of fact and fiction, the point is that this report reinforces the perception that PiS is safeguarding Poland from Russia. Likewise, parliament’s two latest moves reinforce the perception that it’s also safeguarding Poland from the socio-economic and political threats posed by Germany, which is allegedly employing PO to take over the country. Taken together, the innuendo is that only PiS can protect Poland from a post-modern Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
While outside observers might scoff at the preceding narrative, it surprisingly influences a lot of Poles, especially those conservative-nationalists that traditionally support PiS. Polish history is very complex and difficult for non-Poles to properly understand from the perspective of the average Pole. Even though Germany and Russia have turned into fierce competitors since the special operation began as explained at length here, many Poles still suspect them of conspiring to destroy their country’s sovereignty.
This paranoia is directly derived from their deep psychological complexes that are in turn the result of Poles’ historical trauma during the 123 years of imperial-era partition and their false perception that Stalin’s Soviet Union shares equal responsibility with Hitler’s Nazi Germany for sparking World War II. The purpose in referencing the roots of Poles’ distrust of Germany and Russia isn’t to extend credence to their views but just to make outside observers aware of why many are receptive to PiS’ latest suggestion.
By making fall’s elections all about national security, the incumbents are manipulating Poles’ historical trauma for self-serving political reasons, though that’s also not to say that there isn’t any truth to the German dimension of this campaign. While there’s no realistic chance that Russia will attack or invade Poland since the Kremlin has no intention of triggering an overwhelming (and likely nuclear) US response per NATO’s Article 5, speculation about Germany wanting to take over Poland via PO isn’t as far-fetched.
Former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who used to serve as President of the European Council before returning to Poland to lead PO, is a liberal-globalist Eurocrat who embodies the exact opposite of everything that PiS’ conservative-nationalist grey cardinal Jaroslaw Kaczynski stands for. While the latter betrayed his base by supporting the massive influx of Ukrainian refugees that destroyed Poland’s post-war ethno-religious homogeneity, he’s still nowhere near the liberal-globalist that Tusk is.
Nevertheless, PiS’ abovementioned betrayal of its base’s conservative-nationalist principles created space for the anti-establishment Confederation party to grow, which is now Poland’s third most powerful political force after riding the wave of populist opposition to the ruling party’s Ukrainian policy. Confederation might therefore become the kingmaker after fall’s elections, which The Economist recently fearmongered about, unless PiS’ national security scare campaign results in a sweeping victory.
It’s partially in an attempt to win back disgruntled conservative-nationalists from Confederation that PiS is doubling down on its framing of the next elections as being all about national security, which in turn leaves open the possibility of implying or outright claiming that this rising party is a related threat. They haven’t yet done so, perhaps due to concerns that it could prove electorally counterproductive, but this option still can’t be ruled out closer to the vote if they become desperate enough to take that risk.
Speculation about the aforesaid scenario aside, everything that PiS has said and done thus far confirms that it’s doubling down on its suggestion that PO will implement a post-modern Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact if it returns to power, which will deprive Poland of its sovereignty while leaving its borders intact. Observers will find out in less than two months during the 15 October elections whether this narrative resonates enough to keep the incumbents in office or if voters will reject it to replace them instead.