Poland has a right to demand concessions from Ukraine

Kyiv needs to change its attitude toward Poland for the sake of both countries, writes DoRzeczy.pl columnist Maciej Pieczyński

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Maciej Pieczyński

Poland has played a major role in supporting Ukraine from day one of the war with ordinary Poles going above and beyond what they needed to do to help their neighbors repel Russia.

They could have concentrated on securing their own border with Belarus. Instead, they have concentrated on supporting Kyiv in NATO and the EU, and on the huge humanitarian and military aid efforts for Ukraine. 

Poland is still important as a bulwark against a return by the West to business as usual with Russia. Kyiv needs to remember this. If it puts its eggs in the Paris and Berlin basket and treats Poland as marginal or even a competitor, instead of winning the war, it may get a return to the Minsk accords. 

To avoid this scenario, there is a need for more understanding of Polish sensitivities from Kyiv. Accusing Poland of blocking the export of Ukrainian grain is not the way forward. Transit of Ukrainian grain is proceeding through Poland. The embargo is temporary, and Poland is not the only country to have protected its internal market, yet Kyiv has not attacked the others. 

The embargo was a decision to protect and assist Polish farmers rather than an attack on Ukraine. The Ukrainians are still able to export their grain to other EU states, even though they say they want to sell the grain to Africa and the Middle East. 

If Ukraine wants to be in the EU, it must understand that the EU operates on the basis of compromise and consensus. You cannot do whatever you want while damaging the interests of your neighbors. Claims by Ukrainian politicians that Poles are benefitting from blocking Ukrainian grain are bogus and unfair. 

The second issue that has created bad blood between Warsaw and Kyiv is the World War II Volhynia massacre. Here, Ukraine’s attitude is hard to fathom. They have allowed the exhumations of Wehrmacht soldiers on Ukrainian soil but continue to block Polish victims of Ukrainian nationalist crimes in Volhynia.

Poland has done so much for Ukraine that it has a right to demand some concessions, and these are things that won’t hurt Ukraine. First of all, the permission for the exhumation of Volhynia victims. Second, at least some understanding of Polish interests in agriculture. Third, contracts for Polish companies in the reconstruction of Ukraine. 

Kyiv has to realize that Polish help is not a bottomless pit that can function totally unconditionally. Ukraine needs to change its attitude toward Poland for the sake of both countries. 

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