Want to lose an election in 2015? Back Russia.

June 16, 2015
USAF ground support aircraft A-10 participates in the multinational NATO exercise Saber Strike in Adazi

USAF ground support aircraft A-10 participates in a multinational NATO exercise in Adazi, Latvia, June 11, 2015. The annual training this year involves more than 6,000 troops from 13 NATO countries and covers the territories of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The May 24 Polish presidential victory of Andrzej Duda, of the conservative Law and Justice party, surprised many in the West. The Polish economy grew during the most recent financial crisis, and Western financial institutions credited the liberal Civic Platform party of the outgoing President Bronislaw Komorowski for that success.

But beyond the country’s relative prosperity, voters had plenty of reasons to want change. Komorowski’s Civic Platform party raised taxes, nationalized private retirement accounts, and increased regulations and bureaucracy — an area where Poland ranks among the worst in the European Union. But perhaps the governing camp’s greatest failing was its defense and security policy — specifically, its misguided policy toward Russia.

Led by the former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the Civic Platform party won the Polish parliamentary election in 2007 on the slogan of reconciliation with Russia following decades of Soviet repression of Polish citizens. (The Polish president is the head of the armed forces and appoints generals, judges, professors and the head of the National Bank of Poland. The prime minister is more powerful; that election takes place this fall.)

This pro-Russian policy was partly the result of a close partnership between Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany was pursuing a policy of “Strategic Partnership” with Russia, political and economic cooperation that benefited both countries. Poland followed suit.

Komorowski’s Civic Platform party continued to strengthen its ties with Russia until the Ukraine crisis, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing hostility, such as periodic trade embargoes and non-cooperation in the search for Poles murdered by Stalin. After the 2010 Smolensk plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and high-ranking officials, the Russian government failed to return the wreck of the plane and the black boxes to Poland, despite requests by the Polish government and the European Parliament.

More proof of Poland’s failed Russia policy is the virtual open border between Poland and Russia in the heavily armed Kaliningrad region. Russian citizens have a right to access one quarter of Poland’s territory — and in practice, all of it — which is dangerous in the age of Putin’s hybrid warfare.

Poland has not been able to diversify its energy supplies, and remains 90 percent dependent on Russian oil and gas.

Komorowski based his Russia policy on the mistaken assumption that Poland would always have close military cooperation with Moscow. He was surrounded by former Polish dictator Wojciech Jaruzelski’s old generals, who were educated in Moscow. Komorowski is the only noncommunist who voted against the dissolution of the Moscow-tied WSI Military Intelligence Services, and was regarded as the organization’s protector, particularly in its business ventures.

Komorowski’s pro-Russia policies left Poland dangerously unprepared when the international situation in Ukraine deteriorated in the last year. The recent reversal of the party’s pro-Russian policies, now joining the West in condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, lacked credibility and cost Komorowski votes.

Andrzej Duda’s victory has an important symbolic meaning. He plans to use his presidential authority to improve Poland’s security and crack down on corruption. He wants to build up the country’s military capabilities by investing in Poland’s domestic arms industry rather than buying from foreign suppliers.

Most importantly, the new Polish president plans to work more closely with the United States and NATO to integrate Poland and other East European members into NATO defensive structures, such as military bases. His approach is to champion a strong and independent Poland — and be wary of, and prepared for, Russian moves.



We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Slavic Union Now!!!

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

This is a perfect opportunity for the US:

We tell Moscow that if Iran gets the bomb, we give nukes to Poland.

Both problems solved!

Posted by Shrekgrinch | Report as abusive

If Russia so mutch as twitches in Poland’s direction – the “Great patriotic War” will have been in vain – and Putin will be equal in all eyes with the German leader of 1939.

Ukraine has suffered too much already – no more “dominos” are going to fall to appease Putin.

Posted by DD1Prime | Report as abusive

Foreign policy was hardly a factor in the elections and neither of the candidates even stated their attitude towards Russia during the presidental campaign. Andrzej Duda owes his victory mostly to his much better image.
Also,that Russian-Polish military cooperation bit? What is this

Posted by Sad_Boy | Report as abusive

Dr. Lucja Cannon: What’s Joe doing now?

Posted by happytown | Report as abusive

I haven’t seen such a confused article about Poland for a long time.
Polish-Russian cooperation in times of peace is in Poland’s, Russian and European interest. In times of dirty war, as the one going on in eastern Ukraine, Polish-Russian cooperation is restrained by hostile behaviour of Russia. No Polish president will ever support breaking the principle of territorial integrity.
There are no bigger differences between PO and PiS on this topic.
Obviously, the reason of Duda’s victory is people’s disappointment with PO’s inner policy. If you live in an economic miracle you expect to find evidence in your wallet.
Polish-Russian military cooperation ended with the last Soviet soldier leaving Polish territory. Really, I don’t know what the author meant saying that.

Posted by Gryzelda.Wrr | Report as abusive

Strange but isn’t that old Russian friendly government the only one in Europe that stuck by the terms of the ABM installation agreement with the USA? The Poles are stuck between a rock and a crazy place. They’d be well advised to heed their natural affinities for both Ukrainians and Germans – all the neighbors, at one time or another, have taken advantage of Polish weakness.

Posted by Charlesequine | Report as abusive