Weekly Round-Up of Polish News Developments
U.S. President Joe Biden staged a high-profile visit to Poland on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, following immediately after his Monday visit to Kyiv timed to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of the same week. In both countries Biden was effusive in his verbal support of Ukrainian resistance and while in Warszawa warmly praised Poland for its stance on the conflict. However, with the West collectively only now sorting out the logistics of sending modern tanks to Ukraine, and still shying away from sending fighter jets, it begs the question of what’s the morality of giving Ukraine just enough support to survive but not enough to win? In whose real interests was Joe Biden’s visit to Warszawa then?
It was undoubtedly reassuring for many Poles, but the visuals of the speech in the gardens of the Royal Castle will no doubt prove useful props for Biden’s re-election campaign – assuming his embattled administration gets that far. Also at a time when the European Union is once again banging the tired drum of the so-called ‘rule of law’ issue in Poland, it should be remembered that were it not for the catastrophic developments in Ukraine that forced a shotgun marriage between the Biden Administration and the Zjednoczona Prawica government in Warszawa, the U.S. would now be firmly aligned with the European Commission against Poland’s assertion of her own sovereignty and independence vis-à-vis the European Union.
The main developments over the past week have included:
• President Biden pledges to ‘defend literally every inch of NATO’ on a visit to Poland
• Prime Minister Morawiecki visits Kyiv on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
• Poland and Belarus engage in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, and
• the Polish and Ukrainian Ambassadors to Ireland release a joint video under the heading ‘Glory to Ukraine’.
Although the impact was slightly diminished by the symbolism of President Biden’s visit to Kyiv the previous day, on Tuesday and Wednesday Poland was at the centre of the world media spotlight during the U.S. leader’s visit to Warszawa. The highlights were his public address at the Royal Castle on Tuesday evening, and his attendance at the summit meeting of the ‘Bucharest Nine’ – NATO members of the alliance’s eastern flank – on Wednesday.
During his address in Warszawa Biden pledged that the U.S. and its allies ‘will not tire’ of supporting Kyiv and that ‘Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia’. The U.S. President repeatedly thanked the Polish nation for its role in galvanising Western opposition to the Russian invasion and for its generosity in accepting millions of Ukrainian refugees. He described Poland as ‘one of our great allies’.
Duda: ‘Long live free Ukraine’
Speaking before the U.S. leader, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda told the crowd that ‘We stand with Ukraine and will continue to do so. There is no freedom without solidarity’. He added ‘Long live free Ukraine. Long live Poland’s alliance with the United States. Long live NATO. Long live the free world’.
Earlier on Tuesday Biden had met with President Duda at the Presidential Palace in Warszawa. During his visit the U.S. President also met with other Polish government and political leaders and had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. During the summit meeting with fellow NATO leaders on Wednesday Biden said that Article 5 of the NATO treaty – the principle of collective defence – ‘is a sacred commitment’ and that his country ‘will defend literally every inch of NATO’.
Biden’s Show with Blessed Ashes
While in Poland President Biden took the opportunity to get blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday in a specially organised mass with Father Wiesław Dawidowski. Biden commented on Twitter that ‘Today, I join Christians worldwide in observing Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is a time for reflection and discernment and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to God and to one another. May we continue to keep the faith and look with hopeful hearts towards Easter’. The policies of the Biden Administration in many areas are of course sharply at variance from the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Morawiecki in Kiev for Invasion Anniversary
On Friday’s exact anniversary of the Russian invasion Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was in Kyiv where he held a joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky and announced the handover of the first four Leopard tanks that form part of the latest initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s defence. Morawiecki commented that ‘I came here not only with a word of support. Poland, as the first European country, symbolically hands over to you, President Zelensky, the first four Polish Leopard tanks. We will deliver more and urge our EU and NATO partners to do the same’. President Zelensky described the Polish leader’s presence in Kyiv on the first anniversary as ‘a very powerful symbol of the unity between Ukraine and Poland, of our shared steadfastness, our solidarity’.
During his visit Morawiecki also met with his Ukrainian counterpart and laid a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen for Ukraine.
Belarusian Defence Attaché Expelled from Poland
Relations between Poland and the neighbouring Russian puppet state of Belarus continue to be in a state of deep freeze. Last Thursday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warszawa announced the expulsion of the Belarusian defence attaché in direct retaliation for the earlier expulsion of three Polish diplomats by Belarus. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Łukasz Jasina said that the three expelled Polish diplomats ‘have already left Belarus’. The three – a Polish Border Guard liaison officer and two employees of the Polish consulate in Grodno – had been ordered out on February 17th. It followed a spat over Poland’s announcement on February 9th that it was suspending traffic flows at the Bobrowniki border crossing between the two countries until further notice in response to the sentencing of Polish-Belarusian journalist and activist Andrzej Poczobut to eight years imprisonment by a court in Grodno.
Unemployment Inches Up
Last Thursday Głowny Urząd Statystyczny (GUS) or Statistics Poland reported that unemployment rose to 5.5% in January from 5.2% in December, in line with an earlier estimate by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. GUS reported that there were around 857,600 people without work at the end of January, compared to 812,300 a month earlier.
Hurkacz Wins, Świątek Loses
In sports news Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on Sunday claimed his sixth ATP singles title winning the Marseille Open in France on a 6-3, 7-6 scoreline against home favourite Benjamin Bonzi. The 25-year-old Pole holds the world number 11 spot in the ATP rankings.
However, it hasn’t been all good news for Polish tennis stars over the past week. On Saturday women’s world number one Iga Świątek was unexpectedly beaten by Barbora Krejčiková of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships in the UAE. The previous week Świątek had successfully defended her Qatar Open title, claiming her 12th career singles title in the process. Well you can’t win them all!
Ambassadors Call for Continued Support for Ukraine
Turning to developments related to Poland in Ireland, for last Friday’s first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Ambassadors to Ireland of Poland and Ukraine, Anna Sochańska and Larysa Gerasko respectively, released a joint video under the heading ‘Glory to Ukraine’ in which in the words of the Polish Embassy in Dublin they ‘commemorate blameless victims of the conflict and call for continued support for Ukraine’.
Polish – Ukrainian Co-Production at DIFF
The Polish Embassy in Dublin has urged people to attend the screening of the award-winning movie TATA as part of the Dublin International Film Festival on Wednesday, March 1st, at 3:30pm in the Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin.
This Polish-Ukrainian co-production by Anna Maliszewska tells the story of Michał, a truck driver who is forced to take his young daughter and her best friend with him along the highways of Poland and Ukraine. In doing so, he opens them up to a rapidly changing world – as he contemplates his own life priorities.
That’s all from the Hello Irlandia Weekly News for this week.
William Murphy writes for Hello Irlandia on political and general news.