Poland still hasn’t learned its lesson that treating Ukrainians condescendingly always backfires.
Previously rock-solid Polish-Ukrainian relations have recently begun to weaken as a result of preexisting differences returning to the fore after the failure of Kiev’s counteroffensive. This analysis here documents the rapid evolution of their increasingly multidimensional disputes, which is occurring amidst the vicious blame game over who’s responsible for the aforesaid debacle. The latest development is that a Polish official disrespected Ukrainians by literally comparing them all to children.
Plenipotentiary for Polish-Ukrainian Development Cooperation Jadwiga Emilewicz was defending her government’s plan to retain its ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports upon the expiry of the European Commission’s deal on 15 September when she employed a very condescending example. According to her, safeguarding the interests of Polish farmers before helping Ukrainian ones is no different in principle than the airline rule that “it is the mother who has to put on the [oxygen] mask first and then the kid’s”.
Emilewicz also suggested that Biden was personally to blame for this since he promised last summer that the US would build grain silos in Ukraine, “but when we started to ask about it [during a visit to Washington in July], no one in the [US] administration was ready to answer the question.” Nevertheless, she said that Ukrainian grain can still transit through Poland en route to other markets but that “some extra money is necessary” from Brussels to subsidize this since Warsaw doesn’t want to foot the bill.
The reason why her remarks are worthy of analysis is because they inadvertently confirmed that the Polish state views Ukrainians as children. This condescending attitude has been a criticism from them for centuries and contributed to Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s bloody mid-17th century revolt against the erstwhile Commonwealth. It also played a role in radicalizing Ukrainian nationalists during the interwar period, though that of course doesn’t justify their acts of terrorism or genocide of Poles during World War II.
The point is that Poland still hasn’t learned its lesson that treating Ukrainians condescendingly always backfires. There’s no doubt that the Ukrainian state owes the Polish one for the unprecedented support that it’s provided over the past 18 months since the start of the NATO-Russian proxy war and that sometimes Kiev does indeed behave ungratefully, but Emilewicz’s example disrespects all of the Ukrainian people, not just Zelensky. It’s also interesting that she tried to blame Biden for this too.
Polish-US ties have never been better on the military and strategic levels, but they’ve been beset by controversy since Biden entered into office and the liberal–globalist policymaking faction that’s behind him began pressuring the Polish ruling party on socio-cultural issues like abortion and LGBT+. Trump’s rogue State Department did the same, but the pressure is qualitatively different when the head of state and the entirety of their team are in full agreement with this.
Blaming Biden is therefore an asymmetrical response that’s also aimed at diverting Ukrainians’ anger over this issue away from Poland and towards America instead. There’s another purpose too that average observers might not have picked up on, and it concerns Emilewicz’s role in leading Poland’s campaign to slyly take control of Western Ukraine. It can be read about here and details how Poland is exploiting the cover of “reconstruction programs” to turn that region into its de facto protectorate.
She’s supposed to expand what’s presented as mutually beneficial socio-economic cooperation between their countries, but her work is now complicated by the government’s announcement that it’ll retain its ban on Ukrainian agricultural products next month and the bilateral problems that arose as a result. Polish-Ukrainian trust at all levels has plummeted, especially from the perspective of average Ukrainians, yet her effort to repair Polish soft power made everything worse after she insulted her target audience.
What this latest scandal shows is that Polish-Ukrainian relations will likely never return to their zenith from May 2022 when President Andrzej Duda received a hero’s welcome from the Rada. A “new normal” is in the process of being formed, but it’s impeded by Polish officials failing to learn their lesson that treating Ukrainians condescendingly always backfires. For that reason, more scandals and tumult are expected in their bilateral ties, especially as Poland approaches its next national elections on 15 October.