The foreign minister of Poland is Zbigniew Rau.
In February 2022, a significant number of individuals, mostly women and children, who were affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sought refuge in the nearby country of Poland.
The first country to offer assistance to Ukraine was Poland.
In a surprising turn of events, Poles offered their own land as a strategic defense point for Ukraine, becoming a vital military center for obtaining weapons from various parts of the globe.
Despite others believing it was too late to provide weapons to Ukraine, Poland remained steadfast in their belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory. Tanks donated by Poland were instrumental in defending Kyiv, while howitzers made in Poland were crucial in reclaiming Russian-occupied areas in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions.
This came at a tangible price for Poland. Of all the allies, Poles took upon themselves the heaviest burden when it came to helping Ukraine — equivalent to over 3 percent of the country’s GDP, nearly four times as much as wealthy Germany and almost 10 times more than the United States.
Despite any challenges, we believe our efforts have been worthwhile. It is also in the best interest of Poland to support Ukraine.
The eastern border regions of our country have shouldered the majority of the costs for supporting Ukraine, as they have a tragic history of German and Soviet occupation. The people in these regions have a deep understanding of the effects of war. It is in these regions that Ukrainian refugees initially sought refuge and many chose to make it their permanent home.
These are predominantly poorer regions of our country, which traditionally make their living from agriculture. And supporting them to help make ends meet is also in Poland’s best interest.
There is no inconsistency in this situation. Both defending Ukraine against Russia’s invasion and safeguarding our citizens and economy from unjust competition are in the best interest of Poland at the same time.
As Poland grows in strength, it has the ability to provide greater assistance to Ukraine. Our desire is for a robust Ukrainian nation to arise from this conflict with a thriving economy, and we have backed up our words with financial support.
However, our country has not historically received a significant amount of grain from Ukraine. This is due to our strong agricultural industry. Prior to the invasion by Russia, only a small portion (less than 1 percent) of Ukrainian crops were sold in Poland and the majority were exported to middle-income nations in Africa and Asia.
After Russia unilaterally blocked access to the Black Sea, which could have caused a worldwide food shortage, Ukrainian grain began being transported through Poland to reach ports on the Baltic Sea and ultimately consumers on the opposite side of the globe.
However, the initial intention of creating an emergency transportation path for Ukrainian grain to reach non-European markets ultimately became a means for unregulated grain sales in Poland. In the first four months of 2023, 600 times the amount of wheat was exported from Ukraine to Poland compared to the previous year, leading to market disturbances and financial losses for Polish farmers.
During a period when Russia was gradually blocking access to the Black Sea for grain transportation, instead of being delivered to countries in the Global South that urgently needed it, millions of tons of Ukrainian wheat was diverted to our country. The international community did not have the determination to intervene and break Russia’s blockade, while unscrupulous grain traders exploited transit routes through Poland for their own financial gain.
The cost was borne by Polish farmers.
Given this context, the Polish authorities were compelled to intervene and safeguard their agricultural workers by implementing a restriction on the importation of Ukrainian grain. This action was necessary as they had been denied substantial aid from the European Commission, which is responsible for representing member nations of the European Union.
Currently, prominent Polish political parties across the ideological spectrum support maintaining the prohibition on imports. This suggests that the issue holds significant importance for the country’s economy.
Many Poles were taken aback by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent accusation that Poland lacks solidarity. The concept of solidarity, which Poles are well-versed in, should be a two-way street.
This also means that the coalition of free nations has agreed to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, with equal responsibility among all members. The people of Poland have a valid reason to question why they should bear the cost of aiding Ukraine twice, while wealthier European societies continue to evade responsibility and maintain a cooperative relationship with Moscow for an extended period.
We should take this grain disagreement seriously and not use it as a form of political entertainment. In times of crisis, it is important to prioritize the safety of those who are providing aid. Supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia is a clear example of this.
After demonstrating its reliability and trustworthiness as a rescuer, Poland must also prioritize protecting its own home.
Poland will continue to back Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO and the EU. But Warsaw will also oppose any unfair competition.