ukraine poland duda zelensky
© AFP 2023 / SERGEI SUPINSKYPolish President Andrzej Duda and Ukraine Presiden Vladimir Zelensky in better times.
More than a year and a half into its proxy war with Russia, NATO is facing a resurgence of national interests on the part of its member states, especially those along the "eastern flank" who have been asked to bear the brunt of the conflict in Ukraine, experts said. However, that doesn't always mean they're backing down from a hawkish position.

Formerly one of Ukraine's largest arms suppliers, Poland has said it will cease sending weapons to Kiev following Ukraine's filing of a lawsuit against Poland with the World Trade Organization (WTO). While on its face, the dispute seems to be over a grain shipment deal, experts told Sputnik that much deeper political currents are sending the governments of Ukraine, Poland, and the United States in different directions.

Political scientist Dr. David Oualaalou told Radio Sputnik's The Critical Hour that politicians in Ukraine, Poland, and the US were all facing pressure in upcoming elections due to domestic effects of the conflict in Ukraine."
The bottom line is: this [Black Sea] grain deal used to work for everybody, now the EU is saying, 'wait a minute, Poland will have to allow the grain from Ukraine to go through.' And they're saying, 'no, we won't have it because our farmers are paying the price for it and we are not going to allow it', to the point that they decide now we're going to cut off the military support altogether."

"Here is what's at the heart of it: it's because 90% of the grain transfer used to go through Poland, which means also that the Polish farmers were being hit. Now you've got other neighboring countries, including Bulgaria, including Slovakia - all of them are saying 'enough is enough', because the domestic farmers are paying the price to support Ukraine and to them it doesn't make any sense."

"On three fronts, the outcome is going to be different if things are not changed - the policy, that is," he said, noting that not just [President Andrzej] Duda in Poland, but also [President Volodymyr] Zelensky in Ukraine and [President Joe] Biden in the US are all going into elections sometime soon facing strong headwinds on the popularity front."

"So for us here in the US, the speaker of the House, McCarthy, already made it clear that they're not going to support any of whatever the Biden administration intends to do. They are asking for another $24 billion. What happened to the American families? What happened to the American infrastructure? What happens right here at home? Why are we just giving money right and left when we don't even have it? That's one."

"Second, for Poland: when I was there about three or four months ago, and I was talking to locals there when they started to be unhappy with Duda's administration. As a matter of fact, I had a conversation with someone who understands the political structure inside the Polish government and told me that this is just a matter of time. Maybe this is Duda's last time in office to begin with. So now Duda's thinking about his political career by reversing course."

"And for the elections in Ukraine, where the comedian Zelensky is already threatening [that] there will be no elections if we don't give him $5 billion. Well, who the heck is going to be thinking in terms of us giving money to do elections and so forth? What about the will of the people? And you can just see it: on three fronts, the outcome is not going to be bode well for anybody if things are not returned [to normal] - mainly for the United States and Poland. And this is why I believe Poland made the decision."
Dr. George Szamuely, senior researcher at the Institute for Global Policy on disagreements within the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, told Sputnik that the dispute really started more than a year ago.
"In April of 2022, the European Union broke its own rules and essentially lifted tariffs on Ukrainian agricultural produce. So all of this entered the European Union market. The idea was always that it would simply transit through Europe and [go] on to the rest of the world. But that isn't really what happened. So actually, all this agricultural produce stayed in Eastern and Central Europe."

"And it wasn't just the Poles. I mean, the Hungarians, the Slovakians, and Bulgarians, and Romanian farmers were all up in arms because this Ukrainian grain was seriously undercutting their produce, and the governments had to react. And the European Union knew that it had a big problem on its hands. So it said, 'okay, fine. These five countries don't have to import Ukrainian grain other than, you know, we can guarantee that it will transit through the country.'"

"So it went on until last week, when the European Union announced that, 'well, basically we're going back to the way it was before this deal with these five countries, and Ukrainian grain can just simply enter the EU market.' Upon which Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have said, 'well, we don't care what the European Commission says, we're still not going to allow Ukrainian agricultural produce in our markets.' And what then happened, which was the straw that broke the camel's back, is that Ukraine said, 'well, fine, we're going to sue you in the World Trade Organization. Well, this, of course, infuriated the Poles."

"But, the most egregious thing that Zelensky did was to go before the UN General Assembly and accuse Poland of doing Moscow's bidding. Well, there's no greater insult to a Pole, especially a Polish president, than to say you're doing Moscow's bidding. And this is what infuriated President Duda, and [why] he told reporters that Ukraine is behaving like a drowning man who was trying to take down the person who was trying to rescue him. And then [Polish Prime Minister Mateusz] Morawiecki made his statement about, 'well, we're not going to let us send any more weapons into Ukraine because we need the weapons ourselves.'"

"So as things stand, I mean, this is going before the World Trade Organization, Poland is saying 'no more weapons' - it's a serious problem. It could boil over, or they could come to some kind of an agreement, but it is definitely embarrassing, particularly as Zelensky is in Washington meeting, essentially, his benefactors, because whatever Poland does, it pales in comparison with what the United States has done for Ukraine."

"So, you know, you know, Poland talks long and loud, but what it's provided [to] Ukraine is really just a small portion of what the United States is providing."
Asked about whether US President Joe Biden might use his private audience with Zelensky in Washington, DC, on Wednesday to smooth things over with Warsaw, Samueli told Sputnik that "Biden may well say to Zelensky: 'you need to patch things up with Poland. Don't go out of your way to insult the Poles, certainly not before the UN General Assembly.' But the problem is that the Biden administration is absolutely on the hook for Ukraine. I mean, it can't just simply back away now without seriously losing face."

Former UN weapons inspector & WMD whistleblower Scott Ritter told Radio Sputnik's The Backstory that an even more intransigent nationalist current was beginning to prevail in Poland, one that is preparing for a direct war with Russia.
"It was just a month ago that I was engaged in discussions with people about the concept of an economic union between Poland and Ukraine, a customs union. The idea was to reduce as much as possible the border between Poland and western Ukraine. People were speculating about Poland making a move on western Ukraine. It appears that Poland has done a complete 180-degree turnaround and Poland is looking out for Poland's interests. Poland has announced that they plan on expanding their military to 300,000: this requires not only the creation and training of new units, but that these units be equipped. And what Poland is saying is that they are no longer going to be sending [to Ukraine] the modern equipment that they are using for themselves."

"And reading between the lines, this means that Poland is waking up to the reality that Ukraine has lost this conflict, that Poland's going to have to start preparing for a post-conflict reality that has Ukraine existing as a defeated state - meaning that Russia will be, if not right up on the border, at least have a presence closer to the Polish border. So it's the beginning of the end for Poland. You're starting to see Zelensky's stature internationally collapse, and as it collapses, as he is no longer the magnet for international military assistance, I think you'll see his political position collapse as well."
However, Ritter cautioned that while Warsaw might be ending its support for Ukraine, that in no way equates to a softening of their stance toward Russia.

"There is an element of, you know, national interest in this as well. It isn't just about politics. It's about what's best for Poland. And Poland is waking up to the fact that sometime in the near future Ukraine will have lost this war and there will have been a negotiated end that will not be beneficial to either the Zelensky led Ukraine or NATO."