A self-sustaining cycle of mutual mistrust is beginning to infect bilateral ties, but this was inevitable owing to their contradictory national interests on some sensitive issues and the lack of any pressure valve for responsibly managing this in public like other partners have. Poland is unlikely to back down from defending its integrity in the face of blatant disrespect from Ukraine, which means that Kiev must tacitly acknowledge their unequal relations or risk worsening them by continuing to speak out.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply condemned the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s summoning of his country’s ambassador in response to the head of his presidential administration’s international policy bureau calling on Kiev to be more grateful for Warsaw’s support. The official in question defended Poland’s temporary ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports, which readers can learn more about here, by saying that Kiev should “start appreciating” his country’s support.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s official statement that was issued after summoning the Polish Ambassador denied any ingratitude on their side’s part and condescendingly reminded Poland that “Politics should not question mutual understanding and strength of relations between our people.” It was this sequence of events that prompted the Polish premier to tweet the following per Google Translate:
“The summons of the Polish ambassador – the representative of the country that was the only one to remain in Kiev on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should never have taken place.
In international politics, in the face of the ongoing war, and taking into account the enormous support that Poland has given Ukraine, such mistakes should not happen.
We will always defend Poland’s good name, its security, and the interest of no other country will ever prevail over the interest of the Republic of Poland.”
Poland was already becoming perturbed by Ukraine’s glorification of Hitler’s local genocidal collaborators as evidenced by its two criticisms of this in January and May that were analyzed at the time here and here, but now it’s finally becoming perturbed by its ungratefulness as proven by the latest scandal. This was entirely foreseeable since Kiev behaves very arrogantly with all its patrons, but Poland’s ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party couldn’t tolerate this latest blatant disrespect ahead of fall’s national elections.
It’s going to be difficult enough as it is for them to remain in power, which is why they’re resorting to electioneering stunts like preparing to brand their opponents with the scarlet letter of being “Russian agents” and requesting to host US nukes, hence why they have no patience for Ukraine’s latest games. Kiev basically wants Warsaw to surrender its domestic grain market to Ukrainian farmers, but this is unacceptable from the perspective of Polish national interests as well as PiS’ political ones.
For these reasons, Morawiecki did the previously unthinkable by publicly condemning Ukraine as ungrateful, thus confirming that there do indeed exist some serious disagreements in their ties despite the Mainstream Media hitherto gaslighting that any such talk was so-called “Russian propaganda”. He obviously would have preferred to handle this dispute behind closed doors but Kiev forced his hand by summoning the Polish Ambassador.
Had he refrained from doing so, however, then the opposition would almost certainly have stoked domestic speculation about Poland being Ukraine’s “junior partner” in their de facto confederation in an attempt to discredit PiS in the eyes of its traditionally conservative-nationalist base. About those two’s relations since the start of Russia’s special operation, the agreements reached between their presidents in May 2022 paved the way for their informal merger that’s been in progress since then.
The latest development on that front was last month’s opening of Poland’s first “Ukraine Reconstruction Service” office in Lvov, which confirmed that “Poland Is Slyly Taking Control Of Western Ukraine” and can be learned more about in the preceding hyperlinked analysis. This move amounted to Poland institutionalizing its hegemonic influence over Ukraine in ways that further accelerated the already speedy loss of its “junior partner’s” sovereignty.
Although this is being done with Kiev’s permission, its leaders still feel uncomfortable whenever anything is publicly said or done that confirms their country’s unequal partnership with the West. That’s likely why they crossed the diplomatic Rubicon by summoning the Polish Ambassador after the head of his presidential administration’s international policy bureau called on Ukraine to be more grateful. The optics were that Poland was putting Ukraine in its place, which were unacceptable for Kiev.
At the same time, however, it was unrealistic to imagine that Poland would remain silent in the face of increasingly harsh Ukrainian criticism over its temporary banning of that country’s agricultural imports. This is especially so given the tense run-up to this fall’s elections. Nevertheless, from the perspective of Ukraine’s subjective interests and specifically those in the soft power sphere, it also felt like it couldn’t remain silent in the face of this Polish policy confirming its unequal treatment by the West.
What essentially happened is that a self-sustaining cycle of mutual mistrust inevitably came to infect the Polish-Ukrainian relationship due to these two’s contradictory national interests on sensitive issues like agricultural cooperation. It’s natural that no pair of partners will ever fully agree on everything so this isn’t surprising, but its effect is disproportionately significant in those two’s ties at this particular point in time due to Poland’s election season and growing Ukrainian concerns that the West might “sell it out”.
On that last-mentioned topic, there’s a very real chance that the failure of Kiev’s NATO-backed counteroffensive will result in the commencement of ceasefire talks by year’s end for the reasons explained more at length here and here. The Moscow Times even cited an unnamed US former official late last month who claimed to have been “visiting Moscow at least every three months” to hold informal “Track 1.5” talks aimed at working out the details in advance.
Against this backdrop, it’s clear that the US tacitly acknowledges that Kiev’s maximalist goal of removing Russia from the entirety of Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders is impossible, the rising awareness of which among that former Soviet Republic’s people is leading to a crisis of confidence. Its recruits are already demoralized by the failure of their over-hyped counteroffensive, and now they’re realizing that there’s no real point in continuing to fight since the US is informally ready to recognize Russia’s existing gains.
To make matters worse from the perspective of Ukraine’s soft power interests, Poland is now removing any doubt about their country’s “junior partner” status by adamantly arguing against lifting its temporary ban on Kiev’s agricultural exports and openly calling on its neighbor to be more grateful. Left unanswered, this could have led to the abovementioned crisis of confidence spiraling out of control to the point where it might have seriously risked provoking domestic political consequences.
As was explained, a self-sustaining cycle of mutual mistrust is beginning to infect bilateral ties, but this was inevitable owing to their contradictory national interests on some sensitive issues and the lack of any pressure valve for responsibly managing this in public like other partners have. Poland is unlikely to back down from defending its integrity in the face of blatant disrespect from Ukraine, which means that Kiev must tacitly acknowledge their unequal relations or risk worsening them by continuing to speak out.