Polish PM Tusk hijacks parliamentary debate to accuse conservative opposition of being ‘Russian-paid servants’

If we take Prime Minister Donald Tusk's words seriously, the authorities should soon make numerous arrests of Law and Justice party politicians suspected of serving Russia. If it's merely rhetoric, we cannot take our country seriously, writes columnist Michał Szułdrzyński

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk addresses lawmakers during his speech at the parliament in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

During a tense debate in the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Donald Tusk did not mince his words as he accused the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party of being “paid traitors and Russian servants.”

During the debate leading up to the vote, Prime Minister Donald Tusk spoke about Russian influences within the Law and Justice party. The head of government announced the establishment of a new service alongside the prosecutor’s office and a commission to investigate Russian and Belarusian influences within the opposition benches.

“We are dealing with the governance of a political party that has been operating here in Poland under the influence of Russian interests for many, many years,” Tusk claimed.

He also outlined the history of recent years, explaining that PiS came to power as a result of cooperation with Russia during the so-called tape scandal, accusing the previous conservative government of turning a blind eye to Russian interests in Poland for political reasons.

All this took place in the Sejm during the debate on the Law and Justice party’s motion to dismiss the environment minister. This was not about the prime minister disclosing the sensational case of Judge Tomasz Szmydt, whose judicial immunity was just lifted to issue a warrant for his arrest due to his alleged espionage for eastern intelligence after he sought asylum in Belarus. Nor was it about the debate on Russian influences.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk decided to seize the opportunity to level the most serious accusations possible. Thus, we find ourselves in an extraordinary situation with two possible outcomes.

The first option: We take the prime minister’s words seriously. Deadly seriously. This means that tomorrow, the day after, and in the following days, the services will arrest decision-makers from recent years and prove their connections with Russia, presenting evidence of treason in court. After all, the prime minister, relying on reports from special services, would not accuse the party that has governed for the last eight years of being “Russian stooges” without having conclusive evidence, would he?

If, following the exposure of Judge Szmydt in Belarus, the concept of delegalizing PiS emerges, it seems we are acting according to a script written in the Kremlin.

But if that does not happen, then we are left with the second option. Namely, to shrug our shoulders and acknowledge that accusations of serving Russian interests have simply become part of the political folklore in Poland. PiS could just as easily accuse Tusk of colluding with Russia and serving Berlin and Moscow in the same way that Tusk claims the last eight years have been governed by Russian interests and influences. Then we go home, have dinner, and accept that nothing has happened.

But, then we will not be able to treat our state seriously. It’s one or the other. And regardless of which scenario plays out, Tusk’s bold claims have undoubtedly set the stage for a dramatic chapter in Polish politics.

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