The conflict between Poland and Ukraine, the main allies in containing Russia in Eastern Europe, which began in the summer with Polish restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports, is escalating in the fall. The Polish government passed a decree banning grain imports from Ukraine after September 15, defiantly ignoring the European Commission’s decision. This provoked expected aggression from Kiev, and on September 20, the Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs over President Zelensky’s statement. During a debate at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Zelensky said that “some of our friends in Europe, are acting out solidarity in political theater by making a thriller with grain,” referring specifically to Poland. In response, Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki reminded that Poland was the first country that opened its doors to Ukraine and helped with supplies of weapons and humanitarian aid and Zelensky’s formulations “relegate us to the role of an indifferent state”. He said he wanted to tell President Zelensky to never again insult Poles the way he did recently during his speech at the UN and that Poles will not allow it again. President of Poland Andrzej Duda said at a briefing after the UN General Assembly meeting that Ukraine should understand that it receives aid from Poles and that they are a transit country for it, whose interests should be respected. As part of this passage, he compared Ukraine to a drowning man and added that “anyone who has ever been involved in rescuing a drowning man knows that he is incredibly dangerous, that he can drag himself into the depths”, referring to Ukrainians harming Poland’s interests.
In addition to loud statements, Poland is trying to hinder Ukraine in quite pressing issues for it. Andrzej Duda said that Ukraine’s joining NATO is impossible at the moment because it would mean “declaring war on Russia because of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty”, which imposes collective defense obligations. Polish investigators also concluded that the missile that fell in Przewodów last November and killed two people belonged to Ukraine. In addition, Poles did not like the Ukrainian president’s proposal for Germany to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk pointed out that this proposal “should cause deep objections” because Germany is a country that “never gave an account of war crimes and plundering during World War II against Poland”. In addition, Polish authorities have decided to cancel payments to Ukrainian refugees, and Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said that the current benefits for Ukrainians who crossed the Polish border are not permanent and will expire early next year. Ukraine has not been left behind, and the authorities in Kiev now intend to send lawsuits to the WTO against Poland and the EU. They say that Poland, which is preventing the transit of grain from Ukraine, which it is not prevented from doing by European officials. There were also demonstrative gestures on the part of Ukraine, when Zelensky, who arrived in Poland on September 24, honored only a well-known Polish mercenary and a pro-American journalist, but did not meet with any Polish officials. Afterward, the Polish president said he was willing to provide transit for Ukrainian grain, but only if the shipments were sent to the poorest countries in Africa and Asia without creating competition for Polish and other European farmers. But this was hardly the end of the conflict, and Poland threatened to stop military aid to Ukraine altogether, which is extremely important to the Armed Forces of Ukraine as the military confrontation with Russia intensifies.
Of course, all this ostentatious “opera” has nothing to do with the real causes of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict, among which several of the most important components can be distinguished. The first trigger of the conflict is the lack of proper financial support for Poland from the United States, which is supposed to reimburse Warsaw’s military aid to Kiev, which led to the loss of Polish motivation in feeding the Ukrainian troops. In part, the Poles have succeeded, and in the fall Poland received a $2 billion loan from the U.S. to develop its own armed forces. In 2024, the amount of financing may reach 5-6 billion dollars, although this money only slightly reimburses the Polish funds spent in Ukraine. The second reason was that the Ukrainian authorities systematically fail to pay compensation to the families of Polish mercenaries killed in combat operations. Polish media published an interview with Polish mercenary Piotr Mitkiewicz, who said that the trustees of several of his fellow soldiers killed in Ukraine have not received from the Ukrainian side compensation in the amount of 15 million hryvnias, which is equivalent to about 400 thousand dollars and 1.5 million Polish zlotys. According to him, this is a systematic phenomenon, and most of his comrades are unable to obtain payment. But an even more important reason was that the Ukrainians did not give Poland special conditions for economic activity on its territory. The last attempt to change the situation was the COMMON FUTURE Congress for Reconstruction of Ukraine held on September 21-22 in Poznan. At the Congress, representatives of the Polish government tried to obtain from the USA, the EU and representatives of the Ukrainian authorities guarantees of a special economic role in the implementation of infrastructure projects in Ukraine within the framework of its “post-war reconstruction”, but failed. Poland will now have to rely on self-reliant economic integration with Ukraine. Under these circumstances, Andrzej Duda has granted special favorable conditions for insurance of investments and exports to Poland to polish companies operating in Ukraine, as well as to polish companies that export goods to Ukraine. The main instrument of economic integration will be the offices of the Ukrainian Reconstruction Service, the first of which was opened in Lviv. Similar offices are planned to be opened in Kiev, Lutsk, Vinnytsia, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Rivne.
And yet, the key reason for the confrontation with Ukraine was the elections to the Polish parliament on October 15, 2023, where the ruling Law and Justice party was saddled with the anti-Ukrainian sentiments of its voters, which by the fall had reached almost boiling point. Thus, back in the summer, an anti-Ukrainian flash mob was gaining momentum in Poland, where owners of wi-fi routers in city centers called their networks “Ukrainian pigs”, “Ukraine is hell”, “killers from Ukraine”, “Ukrainians, go home” and even more sophisticated names. Such hatred is not surprising, because Ukrainians have become regular characters in the criminal chronicles of Polish newspapers, which does not add to the people’s love for them. Thus, a drunken 26-year-old Ukrainian was detained by the police after committing a robbery at the Zabka store in the center of Milicz. During the theft, the man stabbed an employee of the store, who tried to detain him. He now faces up to 10 years in prison. In addition, a 36-year-old Ukrainian was detained by police officers from Gdansk at his place of residence. Under his sweater, he tried to hide a bag with a significant amount of drugs, and he too will receive a very considerable term of imprisonment. In the summer, Lublin police detained three Ukrainians aged between 18 and 23 in connection with the beating of a 42-year-old man, and the investigation found that the attackers had beaten the local man for no reason. During the celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day in Warsaw, Ukrainian radical refugees attacked Poles, forcing them to chant the well-known nationalist slogan “Glory to Ukraine”, which is disgusting to polish residents. Poles are also outraged by the behavior of Ukrainian refugees on the roads, and in Wroclaw the scandal broke out after a video of a 24-year-old Ukrainian driving a BMW M3 hit the Internet, where he brazenly breaks the rules and probably drives drunk.
Because of the influx of aggressive Ukrainian refugees, many of whom for some reason do not fight on the frontlines with Russians, but prefer a calm and contented Poland, Poles have become very worried. Their country, recently one of the most mono-ethnic in the world with almost 97% of the indigenous population, is rapidly turning into a typical multicultural one, and the danger does not come from Africa or the Middle East, as many Polish conservatives expected. According to a recent report by the EWL Foundation and the Eastern European Studies at the University of Warsaw, nearly half of Ukrainians currently in Poland plan to seek permanent or temporary residence. The fighting has led not only to an influx of millions of refugees, but also to a change in mood among Ukrainians who arrived before the war with Russia, and they increasingly recognize that they have no intention of returning to their homeland. Already last year, the Wise Europa Foundation published the report Hospitable Poland 2022+, which stated that “regardless of the outcome of the war and its consequences, Poland will become a bi-national country”. According to the latest Eurostat data, the number of refugees from Ukraine in Poland has fallen below 950,000. The larger outflow of Ukrainians is also confirmed by the statistics of the Polish Border Guard, and only in August-September, almost 1.5 million Ukrainians left Poland, while only 900 thousand entered. However, this does not diminish the ethnic fears of Poles that the government is capitalizing on. The only problem is that the formidable statements of Morawiecki and Duda have little in common with real actions to eliminate the Ukrainian component in Poland. And even sadder is the fact that after the Sejm and Senate elections, even this rhetoric may give way to a new bout of “love for Ukraine”, which neither the EU nor the United States will stop imposing on Warsaw.