“Grain Of Discord” Between Poland And Ukraine

Poland, one of Kiev’s staunchest and most ardent supporters, along with Britain and the Baltics, is in the midst of an ongoing conflict with Ukraine. The latter’s grain blockade became a manifestation of the neighbor’s internal problems and its numerous claims against Kiev. Thus, in Poland on 15 October parliamentary elections were held to elect members of the Sejm and Senate, so politicians were making loud statements about relations with Ukraine in the agricultural sphere, as local agrarians are a powerful electoral force of the country. The Polish government is distancing itself from Ukraine. For instance, according to an interview with Polsat, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that his country is no longer providing arms to Ukraine as it is instead focused on arming its own military. The statement clarified that Ukraine is not receiving any new weapons from them at the moment.

Earlier, Mr. Morawiecki promised to expand the list of products banned for import if Ukraine continues to exacerbate the difficult situation with grain, which is where the disagreement began. Polish government minister for EU affairs, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, stated in an interview with the PAP news agency that Warsaw could completely withdraw its support from Kiev. “We need the support of Poles on this issue. Otherwise, it will be difficult to support Ukraine as we have done so far,” he said. According to the minister, it is Ukraine’s actions in the agricultural sector that significantly reduce the Poles’ willingness to provide financial and military support.

The Washington Post writes that in addition, Kiev has filed a lawsuit against Poland at the WTO because it unilaterally extended the ban on grain imports from Ukraine after 15 September, regardless of the European Commission’s decision. The authorities in Kiev have declared a counter embargo on vegetables and apples from Poland. Poland’s government has stated they can handle it as they provide Ukraine with “very little” fruits and vegetables. According to the Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Robert Telus, Warsaw “will cope with this problem, but it’s not known whether Kiev will cope with it”. The minister warned that Ukraine would not be allowed to join the EU if the problem with grain exports was not resolved. and the Prime Minister said that Poland could increase the range of products prohibited to be imported from Ukraine.

The country’s President Andrzej Duda reminded Ukrainian authorities complaining about Poland at the WTO that Western military aid for the Ukrainian army flows through the territory of republic and Kiev receives financial/military support from Warsaw. Mr. Duda commented on the Ukrainian grain situation and compared it to a drowning person. He noted that Ukraine is facing a tough situation, which is why it’s taking everything it can. “Trying to save a drowning person can be treacherous as it can drown the rescuer,” as stated by Reuters.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Volodymyr Zelensky to never “insult Poles again” after Zelensky suggested Poland was stirring up drama over a dispute regarding grain exports.

The public polemic between top Polish and Ukrainian officials has shown the world that the cloudless period in bilateral relations is long behind us. The aggravation of Polish-Ukrainian relations reached a new level when a planned meeting between Duda and Zelenskyy at the 78th session of UN General Assembly was canceled at Warsaw’s initiative. According to experts, the Polish leader was going to discuss the situation with the export of Ukrainian grain during his talks with Zelenskyy. As Mr. Duda said, “Ukraine must finally understand” Warsaw’s position, which protects its own economy while providing aid to Kiev.

Polish Discontent

Moreover, Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said on air on the Polsat TV that Warsaw did not intend to extend aid to Ukrainian refugees. We are talking about legal stay in Poland, financial support, social assistance for children, free medical care, free car insurance, etc. Mr. Müller said such supports are temporary and “will simply expire early next year,” emphasizing that “nothing is given forever.” It is next year that Poland’s programme to support Ukrainian refugees expires and is unlikely to be extended, Bloomberg reported. So, many Ukrainians will be left without housing and subsidies. One third of the interviewed refugees in this case would want to return home — not only because of the housing issue, but also because of the now obvious “discrimination” on the Polish labor market.

Not only the popular Polish publications Rzeczpospolita and Gazeta Wyborcza write about Poles’ fatigue with Ukrainian refugees. Anti-Ukrainian sentiments are growing in the country, and the overwhelming majority of Poles believe that aid to Ukraine should be limited, if not stopped. In an article for Politico, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, for example, said that “Poland bears the heaviest burden of aid to Ukraine, equivalent to 3 percent of the country’s GDP, nearly four times that of wealthy Germany and nearly 10 times that of the United States.” However, he stressed that he did not see any contradictions in the ban on Ukrainian grain. “In the first four months of 2023, 600 times more wheat was exported from Ukraine to Poland than a year earlier, resulting in a market collapse and tangible financial losses for Polish farmers.” By the way, as a protest against Ukraine’s lawsuit to the World Trade Organization, Krzysztof Bosak, a Deputy in Poland’s parliament, visited the Ukrainian embassy to hand in an invoice for 101 billion zlotys (equivalent to over $23 billion) in aid that Kiev had received from Warsaw.

Rift in Relationships

Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary unilaterally extended the embargo on Ukrainian grain imports, although the European Commission did not prolong such restrictions after 15 September. Mr. Zelenskyy, speaking at the UN General Assembly the previous day, complained about having “some friends” of Kiev refusing to buy Ukrainian grain to the detriment of their farmers, accusing these countries of fake solidarity. In his opinion, they play along with Moscow by such actions.

Polish government spokesman Mr. Müller later said Warsaw hopes Zelenskyy’s words about “some friends” who play along with Moscow do not refer to Poland. According to him, Kiev’s actions in extending the embargo on Ukrainian grain is because of the influence and pressure from oligarchs. In turn, the head of the Polish government, Mateusz Morawiecki, said during an election trip through the country that Zelenskyy’s accusations against the countries that extended the embargo sounded “out of place”. The head of the Republic’s Cabinet of Ministers warned once again that an escalation on the part of Ukraine would force Poland “to take further steps within the embargo on its part”.

According to experts, the conflict between Warsaw and Kiev is heating up as Ukraine’s demands in the situation with the import of its grain go against the interests of the Polish authorities. This is how Poland demonstrates to Ukraine that its national interests in the agricultural sphere are above all else. Polish agricultural production has been hit hard by the influx of Ukrainian grain at dumping prices. And Poland’s agrarians are a force that could change the political landscape within the country.

No Lifting of Embargo

A breakthrough in the grain dispute with Ukraine should not be expected in the near future, and although Kiev has already taken steps in the right direction by withdrawing its complaint to the WTO, this is not enough, Mr. Müller has said. In an interview with RMF24, the official said that Poland has time, as it has already protected its agricultural market and is not going to lift the embargo. In the conversation, he also commented on the issue of the so-called migration agreement, which, in his opinion, violates the security not only of Poland, but also of the whole of Europe, because it guarantees forced relocation. Against the background of sprouting “grain of discord”, the phrase that Warsaw may tear Ukraine to pieces is already acquiring new meanings.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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