July 15, 2024

The Polish authorities said they would supply Ukraine “only” with already promised weapons, the latest in an escalating public dispute between Kyiv and one of its staunchest allies that comes as the ruling party in Warsaw is trying to fend off a far-right competitor ahead of a national election.

The statement came a day after the country’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, told a national broadcaster that Poland was “no longer transferring any weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming ourselves with the most modern weapons.” But Mr. Morawiecki also insisted that “we will certainly not risk Ukraine’s security,” and said that a vital transit hub for Western weapons flowing into Ukraine through the Polish city of Rzeszow “still plays the same role it has played and will continue to play.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how much more weaponry Poland still has to offer or what the repercussions of such a move would be. But the public comments have risked fracturing Europe’s support for Ukraine as it faces the prospect of another long winter of fighting.

Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Poland has been Kyiv’s most vocal backer in the E.U. and a linchpin of its united front against Moscow. As Ukraine’s neighbor, it hosts major logistics bases for the provision of weapons supplies; has become home to over 1.7 million Ukrainian refugees; and has been the fiercest advocate for continuous financial and military support to Kyiv.

But in recent months the narrative of the ruling Law and Justice party has shifted, with Warsaw last week defying a decision by Brussels to lift a temporary ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports.

Mr. Morawiecki’s somewhat contradictory remarks appeared to be part of a pre-election push by the governing party to reassure voters that it will not put Ukraine’s interests ahead of Polish citizens, and especially farmers, who are angry over low prices for their produce that they blame on an influx of cheap Ukrainian grain. The right-wing party is being squeezed by its far-right competitor, Konfederacja, which has been vocal about reducing Poland’s assistance for Ukraine.

Poland has delivered hundreds of Soviet-era tanks and armored personnel carriers for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as 14 MiG-29 fighter jets. The transfers have largely exhausted Poland’s stock of Soviet-designed weaponry, more easily dispensed with than the modern, Western-made arms at the heart of its ambitions as the dominant military power on NATO’s eastern flank.

Although so far there have been no changes in Poland’s policy toward Ukraine, Mr. Morawiecki’s comments showcased the government’s fraught position and threaten to deepen the public disagreement between Warsaw and Kyiv.

The government’s spokesman Piotr Mueller said in an interview on Thursday that Poland “only carries out previously agreed supplies of ammunition and weapons, including those resulting from the contracts signed with Ukraine.” Asked whether Warsaw would choose not to sign new contracts for delivering arms to Kyiv, Mr. Mueller declined to answer.

Together with Hungary and Slovakia, Poland last week introduced a unilateral ban on sales of Ukrainian agricultural exports within its borders, arguing that cheap Ukrainian produce was seeping into domestic markets and hurting farmers. Slovakia is also holding elections soon, on Sept. 30, and farmers are an important political constituency for authorities in both countries.

The declared bans have angered Ukraine, which this week filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the three countries. Ukraine’s minister of agriculture, Mykola Solskyi, said he had talked with his Polish counterpart “to find a solution that takes into account the interests of both countries” and that there will be further talks in the coming days. Poland did not immediately comment on the statement.

On Tuesday, Mr. Zelensky told the United Nations General Assembly that “it is alarming to see how some in Europe, some of our friends in Europe, play out solidarity in a political theater — making a thriller from the grain.” Mr. Zelensky added that they “are helping set the stage to a Moscow actor.”

The Polish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it had summoned the Ukrainian ambassador over Mr. Zelensky’s comments.

The European Union, which reimburses part of the costs of weapons delivered by member nations to Ukraine, tried to play down concerns about weapons deliveries. Warsaw has so far provided Kyiv with military aid worth over $3 billion, including tanks, armored vehicles, and ammunition. The bloc is currently negotiating a €20 billion, or $21.3 billion, fund to finance weapons for Ukraine over the next four years, which requires agreement from all 27 member nations.

“What is important are the concrete actions, and the concrete actions on the ground are that Ukraine still receives military support from the European Union member states,” Peter Stano, E.U. spokesman for foreign affairs told reporters on Thursday when asked about Mr. Morawiecki’s comments.

On Thursday, Slovakia’s authorities said they had reached an agreement with Ukraine, in which Kyiv will issue licenses to exporters to regulate the flow of grain. Ukraine did not immediately comment, but its agricultural ministry said on Wednesday that officials from the two countries had “discussed cooperation in the agricultural sector.”

Anatol Magdziarz, Constant Méheut and Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.

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