Can Poland and Germany Align their Russia Policies?

Małgorzata Kosiura-Kaźmierska, Agnieszka Bryc, Ambas­sador Elbling and Ralf Fücks (left to right)

Małgorzata Kosiura-Kaźmierska, Agnieszka Bryc, Ambas­sador Elbling and Ralf Fücks (left to right)

For many years, Poland and Germany pursued different policies regarding Russia and Ukraine. While Warsaw advocated harsher sanctions against Moscow and more support for Kyiv, Berlin was tradi­tion­ally more reluctant. Despite Zeit­en­wende, differ­ences linger. Can the two countries synchro­nize their approach? This was the essence of our recent public discus­sion in Warsaw, held jointly with the Foun­da­tion for Polish-German Coop­er­a­tion.

The discus­sion took place after a meeting of our Expert Network Russia at the Polish Institute for Eastern Studies (OSW) in Warsaw. Click here to read the report about the meeting and here to read more from the Expert Network!

After nearly two years of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Putin regime shows resilience to political and economic pressure, dashing hopes that the war would end soon. Because of this, the Polish panelists were adamant that the West needs to do more. “We can change the situation overnight if we are committed”, Polish Foreign Ministry official Małgorzata Kosiura-Kaźmierska said. She added that the West needs to show that it is more deter­mined than Russia and that Poland and Germany were the crucial countries to do that: “Let’s just lead by example!” she demanded.

German Ambas­sador Viktor Elbling defended the German government’s policies and dismissed criticism from the audience that despite Chan­cellor Olaf Scholz’ Zeit­en­wende Berlin was doing too little, too late. He argued that German aid to Ukraine was “substan­tial” and that Berlin and Warsaw were on the same page when it comes to helping Kyiv.

Thus, it was LibMod director Ralf Fücks who crit­i­cized the Scholz’ formula “Russia must not win and Ukraine must not lose”. The ongoing German ambiguity with regard of the outcome of the war reflects fear of esca­la­tion and mistrust in our own abilities, he argued. German military support for Ukraine remains restricted by fear. “If we send (such) a message of weakness in this conflict we will send a message to autoc­ra­cies all over the world”, Fücks warned.

Agnieszka Bryc, a prominent Polish inter­na­tional relations expert, called for a strategy of deter­rence and for clear signals that the West will talk only to a regime other than Putin’s. “We should not be afraid of Russia’s desta­bi­liza­tion, because only a crisis can bring about change,” she stressed, a viewpoint that is wide­spread in the Polish foreign policy community.

Bryc also said that Russia’s war against Ukraine has increased the political weight of the Eastern countries within Europe. Whether this will enable Warsaw to effec­tively influence poli­cy­makers in Berlin remains to be seen.


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