Poland - Ukraine: Reboot required
The strategic relations between Ukraine and Poland have somehow lost their pragmatic component and are now based on the emotional perception of each other’s steps. This situation must be changed as soon as possible, as the neighbors should meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world together.
Ukraine’s adoption of a so-called de-communization right after Bronislaw Komorowski addressed the Ukrainian Parliament from the Rada’s rostrum made no one in Polish elites happy. Polish officials (regardless of their political affiliations) couldn’t care less about cautious explanations of the Ukrainian authorities who claimed that the Ukrainian parliament today has plenty of new faces and is still guided by revolutionary expediency. Moreover, having pushed the then Polish president to resignation, the Ukrainian officials have actually confirmed their inability to engage in dialogue with the neighboring government, controlled by a quite reasonable "Civic Platform".
It’s obvious that Warsaw has no intentions to turn away from Kyiv completely, but we should not count on any courtesy or special preferences.
The victory of the representatives of Prawo i Sprawedliwosc [Law and Justice] in presidential and parliamentary elections can hardly be called reassuring to the official Kyiv. The fact is, neither Andrzej Duda, nor Jaroslaw Kaczynski perceive Ukraine with any piety, while within the PiS there is a strong influence of “kresowiacy,” with the ashes of a 1943 Volhynia tragedy still pounding in their hearts. Polish political forces are more ideological, than those in Ukraine, and this encourages them to translate the interests of their voters. It’s obvious that Warsaw has no intentions to turn away from Kyiv completely, but we should not count on any courtesy or special preferences.
However, the ideological struggle played a cruel joke with the PiS leading to a diplomatic embarrassment. Marcin Wojciechowski, a renowned journalist and former spokesman of Radoslaw Sikorski and Grzegorz Schetyna, was appointed Polish Ambassador to Ukraine. As expected, he received an agrement of the Ukrainian side, but has not yet commenced his duties. Poland’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski believes that a more professional diplomat should be working in Kyiv, as Ukraine is represented in Warsaw by former foreign minister and a “famous singer,” Andriy Deshchytsia. Meanwhile, Henryk Litwin is still in charge at the Embassy, but the bottom line is that Kyiv and Warsaw’s exchange can hardly be called diplomatic curtsies.
Сynical as it may sound, a possible collapse of the Minsk format of Donbas crisis settlement may play in Poland’s hands, as it failed to become part of this process.
While top Ukrainian authorities claim that the power vertical could be reloaded in one and a half years, Poland spent three times less time on it, with some more radical demands. The PiS will try not only to take revenge for its time in opposition, but also to lay the foundation for their future electoral success. Considering the national character of the Poles, solely providing a domestic political breakthrough and maintaining positive economic dynamics will not be enough to fulfill this task. Major foreign policy success is also needed.
Cynical as it may sound, a possible collapse of the Minsk format of Donbas crisis settlement may play in Poland’s hands, as it failed to become part of this process. On the other hand, Ukraine needs not only a broadcaster of Washington’s position (Kyiv copes with this issue by itself, more or less), but also a strategic ally, able to assist the country more actively than its partners in Western Europe. Criticizing its opponents from the Civic Platform for their excessively pro-German stance, the PiS, as a party in power, will be promoting the idea of a Baltic-Black Sea Union, which has little no chances for implementation without participation of the Ukrainian side.
I believe neither of the two neighbors have any clear strategy toward each other. Paris attacks might give additional impetus to the search for the common interest, where Warsaw will play the leading part, while Kyiv will have to learn how to implement pragmatic and predictable policy in relations with its strategic partner. Andrzej Duda’s visit to Ukraine scheduled for early December could lay the groundwork for rebooting the Polish-Ukrainian relations, making them pragmatic and future-oriented, rather than set upon the past.