Double edged weapon

Double edged weapon

Alena Kazakova

The Polish authorities do not hide the negative attitude towards Russia, which worsened after the start of the military operation in Ukraine. Prime Min-ister Mateusz Morawiecki noted that Warsaw “to a greater extent directs the policy of sanctions” against Moscow. To be excluded from the G20, to deprive the right of veto in the UN Security Council, to ban Russians from visiting European states – these are the demands of the Poles. Whether countries face a complete gap – in the material of RIA Novosti.
Political spin
Poland was at the forefront of pressure on Russia back in 2014, after reunification with Crimea. In 2015, Vladimir Putin was not invited to the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the then Polish leader Bronislaw Komorowski refused to travel to Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the Victory. With the coming to power of Andrzej Duda, there was no warming.
And now, in 2022, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki does not hide the fact that Russophobia has become official in the country: “In the context of that terrible event, which is the war in Ukraine, Poland sets a certain kind of standards here. What was previously called Russophobia, today it is mainstream, today it is already accepted as evidence in which we function.”
The Polish authorities were among the first to support Kyiv in the confrontation with Moscow, urging European countries to impose anti-Russian sanctions. And when Hungary refused to expand restrictions on the energy sector, Andrzej Duda almost threatened: “This policy will cost Hungary very dearly.”
Morawiecki, meanwhile, called on the EU to completely stop trade with Russia: “It is necessary to organize a blockade as soon as possible – a ban on the entry of Russian ships under the Russian flag with Russian goods into ports and a ban on trade by land.”
Ukraine is supported not only by the authorities, but also by ordinary citizens. Numerous actions were held in the country with calls to close the sky over Kiev. Near the German embassy – rallies demanding to stop “financing the Kremlin” by buying gas. The plate of the Russian diplomatic mission in Poland was doused with paint, and the building itself was fired with metal balls from a slingshot.
“Windows were broken a month ago. Threats come by e-mail, they exert moral and psychological pressure, but there were no serious excesses with our employees and members of their families,” Russian Ambas-sador to Warsaw Sergey Andreev told RIA Novosti. There are also manifestations of hostility towards Russians living in Poland, but diplomats are not aware of any serious incidents.
However, the belligerent statements of the Poles remain at the level of rhetoric, according to the former head of the Polish Foreign Ministry Radoslaw Sikorski. The West is “imposing sanctions that are painful for itself,” but the diplomat cannot remember what restrictions Poland has imposed. For example, the country still buys Russian coal. True, soon the Polish authorities announced that they were still blocking the import of energy resources.
Sanctions locomotive
Poland received the main flow of refugees from Ukraine. If only three and a half million citizens have left since the beginning of the conflict, half of them were accepted by Warsaw.
Russian media stopped broadcasting throughout Poland, completed cooperation with Moscow in the field of science and technology, and severed ties with educational institutions, including the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. Bank accounts related to the Russian embassy have been blocked. Most diplomats were expelled from the republic – 45 people.
At the same time, there is no talk of breaking off diplomatic relations. “About 15 employees remain in the country, work is being carried out across the entire range of tasks, but with smaller forces,” the Russian ambassador explained.
Despite the post-Crimean sanctions, Russia remained the largest market for Polish goods in the eastern direction. Apples were transported through the territory of Belarus, where, according to documents, they turned into “Belarusian”. Moscow bought chemical products, cars, food products, cosmetics and clothing from Warsaw. The country’s share in Russia’s imports in 2021 was just under two percent.
Poland accounted for only three percent of all Russian coal exports. But from December the state will stop buying gas from Moscow even under short-term contracts (about five percent). Last year, the share of all exports from Russia was about three and a half percent.
The Ministry of Energy of Russia was skeptical about the statement of the Poles and is sure that a one-time replacement of Russian coal with another is “unlikely”, and the transition will stretch over time.
However, Poland rem-ains the main anti-Russian mouthpiece in the eastern part of Europe. And her example can be contagious.
Double edged weapon
Warsaw’s position is largely determined by “historical memory”, especially after the USSR and Germany divided the country between them in 1939, says political scientist Valery Karbalevich. “The ruling Law and Justice party is conservative, the national narrative is most pronounced there. Warsaw’s desire to become the leader of the Eastern European region is mixed with this. Therefore, Poland is at the forefront of the geopolitical trend, in particular, the anti-Russian one.”
Baltnews editor-in-chief Andrei Starikov emphasizes that, unlike Latvia and Estonia, which border Russia directly, trade relations with Moscow were not significant for Poland. The main losses of the two states are the rupture of logistics chains. At least until recently, Russia actively used the Baltic ports.
“Relations between countries cannot be called fundamental, their loss is not critical for both sides. Nevertheless, any decrease in the level of trade relations is always a loss. Sanctions were introduced after the annexation of Crimea, and what is happening today is more like inertia, which is moving towards zero”, – says Starikov.
He does not believe that a break in diplomatic relations is possible, since such an escalation does not make sense: “There are enough Polish citizens in Russia, as well as Russians in Poland. Countries need to ensure their legal status of stay and movement, so at least consular departments should work. Warsaw continues to receive part of the Belarusian-Russian youth, acting as a platform for non-systemic opposition. Some even have Russian passports.”
Until 2015, Polish-Russian relations were actively developing, especially at the private level. Residents of Kaliningrad bought sausages and vegetables at low prices in Polish stores. The Poles came to the Russian region for cheap fuel. And so far, the anti-Russian rhetoric that Warsaw is promoting is hitting not so much the state as ordinary people.

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