Poland, a top Ukraine ally, to stop sending military aid amid grain spat – National


Poland’s prime minister said his country is no longer sending arms to Ukraine, a comment that appeared aimed at pressuring Kyiv and put Poland’s status as a major source of military equipment in doubt as a trade dispute between the neighboring states escalates.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview late on Wednesday that Poland is no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine. He made the comment as his populist party faces pressure from a far-right party in a national election on Oct. 15. The far-right party, Confederation, says Poland is not getting the gratitude it deserves for arming Ukraine and accepting its refugees.

“We are no longer transferring any weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming ourselves with the most modern weapons,” Morawiecki said in an interview on Polsat, a private television broadcaster. He did not elaborate or explain if and how the two actions were mutually exclusive.

The prime minister then spoke of a military modernization plan underway, spurred by fears of Russian aggression in the region.

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A government spokesman, Piotr Mueller, said Thursday the country was now only providing supplies of ammunition and armaments that had previously been agreed to, noting that “a series of absolutely unacceptable statements and diplomatic gestures appeared on the Ukrainian side.”

Poland has supplied Ukraine with a wide range of weaponry, including Leopard 2 tanks and Soviet-era MiG fighter jets. Poles are still largely in favor of Ukraine, believing their nation would be vulnerable if Russia were to prevail just across the border. But there is also a growing weariness in society with the large numbers of refugees.

The Polish-Ukrainian spat comes as Ukraine forces are making slow progress breaking through Russian battle lines in a counteroffensive that has not moved as quickly or as well as initially hoped. Kyiv’s leaders are lobbying for a new round of advanced weapons, including longer range missiles.

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U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last weekend that there is a continued need for more weapons and equipment in Ukraine and that allies and partners are looking for ways to address that.

But some U.S. voters are beginning to tire of helping Ukraine, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Washington this week as Republican leaders in Congress diverge on how to send more military and humanitarian aid to the country.

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A leading security and defense expert, Michal Baranowski, said that Poland gave most of what it could give earlier in the war, and with no plans for shipments of major equipment soon he doesn’t see a threat to Ukraine’s capabilities in the near term. Still, he considers the comments as troubling for Ukraine as its seeks to maintain Western support in the war unleashed by Russia.

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“The message is very bad, both for Poland’s reputation but also because Poland has been one of the chief advocates of military aid to Ukraine. Saying Poland will not be sending more weapons means that Poland can no longer play this role,” said Baranowski, managing director of Warsaw-based GMF East, part of the German Marshall Fund think tank.

He said Poland’s attempt to show toughness toward Kyiv should be understood in the context of the election campaign. In response to Morawiecki saying Poland would now focus on modernizing its own forces, Baranowski noted that Poland is capable of both modernizing its military and continuing to help Ukraine.

Donald Tusk, a top opposition leader, accused Morawiecki and other ruling authorities of a “moral and geopolitical scandal of stabbing Ukraine in the back politically when they decide to fight on the Ukrainian front, just because it will be profitable for their campaign.”

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Emotions have been running high after Poland, Hungary and Slovakia last week announced a new ban on Ukrainian grain imports, saying they wanted to protect their farmers from a glut of Ukrainian grain in their markets. The grain lowers prices for local farmers and hurts their livelihood. Kyiv responded with a complaint at the World Trade Organization against the three countries that sparked even more angry reactions from Poland.

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Polish and Ukrainian agriculture ministers said Thursday they were working to resolve the situation in a way that takes the interests of both countries into account. Ukraine meanwhile was lifting its complaint against Slovakia as the two sides sought a resolution, Slovak authorities said.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, Zelenskyy suggested that the countries opposing Ukraine on grain were in fact working on Russia’s behalf. Poland urgently summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to complain on Wednesday.

Morawiecki in the Polsat interview said that Poland would not take steps to threaten Ukraine’s security.

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He said a NATO and U.S. hub in the Polish city of Rzeszow used for transporting weapons into Ukraine would not be affected. “We are not going to risk the security of Ukraine,” he said.

A senior U.S. government official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that the United States does not view Morawiecki’s statements as a sign of Western unity cracking and expects to see continued leadership from Poland in the effort to help Ukraine.

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The official noted that “each country that’s contributing to Ukraine has its own domestic politics and that’s just a reality. Some of these countries are in the middle of election cycles, so they’re also in the middle of messaging their publics.” The official requested anonymity to speak to reporters on the subject.

The German Foreign Ministry said: “Ukraine continues to need our full support. It is important that we in Europe act decisively and in solidarity in this regard. Germany will support Ukraine humanitarianly, politically, economically and with weapons for as long as it needs us.”

Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Brussels, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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