One of Kiev’s strongest backers has cut back support amid an ongoing trade dispute
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky speaks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during an event in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. © AFP / Wojtek Radwanski
Poland will no longer provide arms to the Ukrainian military, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said, adding that Warsaw would instead shift focus to its own security. The decision follows a diplomatic row over Ukrainian grain imports, which were banned in Poland after flooding local markets.
Morawiecki told reporters on Wednesday that the government would halt the weapons shipments, highlighting a growing rift between the two neighbors after more than a year of heavy support from Warsaw.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Morawiecki said. He later warned that additional trade bans could be imposed on Kiev, given that the “Ukrainian authorities do not understand the degree to which Poland’s farming industry has been destabilized” by foreign imports.
The comments came after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky appeared to make a thinly veiled jab at Poland during a speech before the UN General Assembly earlier this week, saying that “some [countries] in Europe play out solidarity in a political theater” and are “making a thriller for the grain.”
The trade spat has steadily escalated in recent months. As major Black Sea shipping lanes were closed off due to the conflict with Russia, Ukrainian grain poured into Central and European markets, tanking prices and wreaking havoc for local producers.
The grain glut prompted a formal import ban among five EU members to protect domestic farmers – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Though the bloc-wide ban expired last week, Warsaw, Budapest and Bratislava have opted to keep the policy in place on an individual basis, each arguing it is needed to stabilize prices.
Kiev has insisted that the bans are illegal, with Economy Minister Yulia Sviridenko stating that “it is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods.” The government has since filed lawsuits with the World Trade Organization, seeking to halt the trade restrictions, though Warsaw dismissed the move, saying that a “complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us.”
Another EU nation snubs cheap Ukrainian grain
Poland has been among Ukraine’s most vocal supporters throughout the conflict with Moscow, repeatedly urging other EU members to step up military aid while approving a long line of its own arms shipments. Polish President Andrzej Duda recently urged Kiev to “remember” his country’s status as a logistical hub for weapons deliveries and compared Ukraine to a drowning man, who might drag his rescuers under the water with him.
The decision to stop the flow of weapons comes as Kiev’s summer counteroffensive continues to lag into the fall, with Ukrainian forces struggling to penetrate Russia’s heavy front-line fortifications despite more than a year of Western arms transfers, training and intelligence support.