Brussels warned Warsaw of “the security risks” of an initiative that directly challenges the Kremlin
The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia – Mateusz Morawiecki, Pietr Fiala and Janez Jansa – took this Tuesday the commitment of Eastern Europe with Ukraine, directly and personally, to kyiv. They boarded a train in Poland early in the morning and traveled to the capital besieged by Russian troops. More than a gesture. An obvious challenge to Moscow that, at the same time, generated discomfort in Brussels. Because yes, the community institutions (Council and Commission) were informed of the displacement. But that didn’t stop them from holding their breath. Because a hypothetical attack (even if it were fortuitous) would lead to an international escalation of the conflict. And that is what the West wants to avoid.
The three leaders chose the train as the safest way to cross, from the west, a Ukraine where Russian missiles claim lives, destroy buildings and also devour kilometers of roads every day. Or the Ukrainians themselves tear down their bridges in an attempt to stop the enemy advance. The objective was clear: sit down with Volodímir Zelensky at the same table and guarantee him the full support of the European Union.
Czech Prime Minister Fiala wrote on Twitter that they wanted to “show our solidarity” with Ukraine. Do it “unequivocally”, they added from Warsaw. Go beyond the statements of support that are verbalized from Brussels or the capitals of the Twenty-seven. And that, in any case, they have already been reflected in a cascade of sanctions, economic aid and the supply of war material to the Ukrainian government. “This tragedy has to stop as soon as possible. That is why we are here!” wrote the Polish Prime Minister already in the capital. “This is where history is made, in war-torn kyiv. Here freedom is fighting against tyranny », he added, via Twitter. The message was immediately answered by his Ukrainian counterpart, Denys Shmyhal. He welcomed the “courage of true friends.”
The point is that the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia stressed a lot that the trip had a green card from the rest of the EU leaders. They were briefed at the informal summit held last week in Versailles. The same, by the way, in which it was made clear to kyiv that the EU was not going to open “shortcuts” to Ukraine’s accession. Another reality check for Zelensky.
The president of the European Council, the institution that coordinates the Twenty-seven, acknowledged on Tuesday that the trip was indeed reported at that meeting. And that it was on Sunday night when the Polish leader informed Charles Michel who was going to do it. From there the versions of each other rub.
Warsaw (it is insisted) would hint in several messages that there was an agreement with the presidents of the European institutions on this trip. But from the teams of Michel and the President of the Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, some discomfort was projected. He was “aware” of the initiative. But, at the same time, Michel’s environment specified that he warned Morawiecki “of the security risks” of the visit. And what did the European Commission say? Dodge. He did not give an opinion “because it is not for the European_Commission to rule on government decisions.” The ‘classic’ profile, especially dissonant at this time, when the bloc’s cohesion on the invasion of Ukraine hardly shows cracks.
The spokesman for the Polish government, Piotr Müller, emphasized in a statement that the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, had been informed of the mission, as had the representative of the United States government, although without specifying more. “The delegation acts, de facto, on behalf of the EU,” Müller wrote. The details of Warsaw pointed to a desire, on the Polish side, to remove from the visit any shadow of initiative on their own by these three countries.
The stumble with the MIG-29
Poland has stood out as the most active country in the defense of its closest neighbor among the EU partners. To the point of pinching his fingers, as happened last week when he said he was willing to hand over his MiG-29s to kyiv – Russian-made fighters and the only ones for which Ukrainian pilots received training.
The unilateral offer was rejected by the United States, a country implicated since Poland intended to obtain its used F-16s in exchange. Germany also responded with a refusal, since the exchange had to be made at the American base in Ramstein, in German territory.
The Polish delegation also included Jaroslaw Kaczysnki, leader of the ruling ultra-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) and a strong man in the Morawiecki government. Between 2015 and 2019, he represented the hardest line against the reception of refugees from the Syrian conflict. From the rejection of that time, Poland has become the first country of entry for those displaced by this war. It has already received 1.8 million refugees out of the almost three million who have left Ukraine since it was invaded by Russian troops on February 24.
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