The President forgot only one thing: A partnership or alliance with another country is not built on a foundation of friendship or cordial personal relations between leaders. Friendship is not a currency in inter-state relations.
Of course, this does not mean that leaders’ personal relationships are not important or that they should not maintain as friendly a relationship as possible with other leaders. The bottom line is that friendship between leaders is only effective when their countries share common interests. Poland and Ukraine have many conflicting interests, temporarily covered only by a common and very important goal, namely the preservation of Ukraine’s independence.
Poland and Ukraine are divided by economic interests (very important in the context of Kiev’s EU aspirations), historical (Volhynia) and, above all, cultural and civilizational interests (Poland’s absorption in the East instead of the West is increasing. Warsaw’s real interests).
President Duda, disappointed that Zelensky finally began to emphasize and exploit these differences of interests, exposes himself – at best – to accusations of naivete. At worst, it is about not understanding the realities of international politics and repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Emotional politics, ideological politics
Disillusioned hopes for Ukraine and an emotional attitude toward President Zelensky should not be entirely surprising.
Before the war, our relations with Ukraine were not in the best condition. Immediately after the war broke out, the situation turned 180 degrees and Ukraine became our best friend. However, today when the Polish authorities do not like the activity of the Ukrainian side and the words of Zelenskiy, Prime Minister Morawiecki scolds him in a harsh tone, and the Minister of Agriculture Threatens to block Kiev’s entry into the EU.
Such wall-to-wall flailing – even if our interests have not fundamentally changed – is immature, ad hoc diplomacy, based on emotional considerations rather than a rational calculation of state interests.
This is not a great discovery, because Polish officials have long been guided by emotions in their relations with foreign partners. Not only in Eastern policy.
Remember the 2020 US presidential election. Then the ruling camp openly supported Donald Trump. One of the administration’s advisers even wrote that Trump should assume he will win and “ignore other possibilities.” Polish officials were so supportive of Trump that when Joe Biden won, they didn’t want to congratulate him for long. The attachment to Trump was so irrational that Warsaw forgot that foreign policy is conducted in the conditions that exist, and not in those that best suit us.
Or the politics of love with Viktor Orban. For ideological reasons, PiS politicians believed they were in alliance and friendship with the Hungarian Prime Minister. Jarosław Kaczyński wanted to introduce Budapest to Warsaw and was called by the Orbán ruling camp to be the vanguard of a sovereign and anti-Brussels war of independence. The only explanation for the close political ties between Poland and Hungary is this: protecting each other Conflict with Brussels over rule of law.
While it was clear from the start that Orban was tactically playing his Polish “friends” and using them as cover in his own conflict with Brussels, it took the war in Ukraine for PiS politicians to understand that Poland and Hungary do not have much in common. Political interests and economics. Again: we are aligned with a foreign partner for emotional and ideological reasons, not as a result of strategic calculation.
Today’s turmoil in relations with Ukraine does not at all indicate that the Polish authorities have achieved all these disappointments. The disillusioned friendship between Duda and Zelenskiy is another – and unfortunately not the last – example of how Polish officials personally and emotionally perceive the field of international politics. Because of that they can do little real business.
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