As Putin’s invasion of Ukraine intensifies and the Russian army continues to indiscriminately shell Ukrainian cities and launch military operations across the entire territory of Ukraine, Europe has changed much of its previously timid approach towards Russia, with dozens of states deciding to send valuable military aid to Ukraine. However, it is Poland —a country frequently at loggerheads with Brussels— which has had a stellar role in the continent’s response against Moscow.
On Tuesday, the Polish Prime Minister, alongside his counterparts of Czechia and Slovenia made a daring visit to Kyiv, which has been under Russian artillery attacks, and talked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in person, where the Polish PM declared that “Europe must guarantee Ukraine’s independence and ensure that it is ready to help in Ukraine’s reconstruction.” Just a few hours after the meeting, the Pole deputy PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed that a peacekeeping operation in Ukraine which would give humanitarian aid to the country and that would be protected by “appropriate armed forces.”
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created a refugee crisis, with Poland as main destination
Since the beginning of the war, the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, where the government and civilians have mounted a quick and impressive effort to accommodate the large number of Ukrainian civilians fleeing their country. According to UNHCR data, out of the 3 million Ukrainian refugees, more than 1.8 million have fled to Poland, after the government issued non-strict requirements for entry. In Ukraine, the civilian population has received them with open arms, as volunteers provide them with food, access to cell phones, and shelter.
The Polish parliament approved a law allowing Ukrainian refugees to stay legally in the country for at least 18 months, immediate access to the country’s social security and healthcare and they have also approved $1.7 billion in assistance to refugees. The scope of the migrant crisis that Eastern Europe is experiencing is daunting, as, in just a couple of weeks of fighting, Ukraine has become one of the top five refugee crises in the world.
Although it is a matter of time that Poland becomes overwhelmed with the influx, something that the major of Warsaw has already hinted at, it is undoubtedly that the Poles have led the way in solidarity and humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people.
Poland has offered jets to Ukraine, the rest of the West has remained skeptical
Warsaw has not only provided valuable humanitarian help by receiving millions of refugees, but it has also provided military aid to the Kyiv government and has vowed to take a step that the rest of NATO and Europe have been extremely hesitant to do, send crucial fighter jets to bolster the Ukrainian Air Force and increase its chances to resist Putin’s invasion.
Just a few weeks before the invasion, when the world was still trying to guess what were Putin’s true intentions with Ukraine, the Polish Ministry of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak announced that his country would send several dozen thousand rounds of ammunition and artillery ammunition, air defense systems, and also light mortars and reconnaissance drones. Some of those critical supplies are man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) which have reportedly played a significant role in Ukraine’s defense to the Russian invasion. Poland has also allowed NATO allies to deliver military aid to Ukraine through their border, as Americans and British coordinate the urgent efforts to keep the Ukrainian army supplied.
Warsaw also agreed, after a week of American advocacy, to send its entire MiG-29 fighter jet fleet to an American base in Germany from where the planes could be delivered to Ukraine, a move that has been one of the key requests of Zelensky since the Russian invasion began a couple of weeks ago. However, the United States canceled the deal a day after the Poles announced it, saying that the proposal was not a “tenable one.”
Poland’s response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has earned them some needed good press in both European capitals and the mainstream media, as Warsaw has been in a state of constant conflict with Brussels for years over the state of its rule of law. Nonetheless, it remains unknown if the EU-Poland relationship will improve due to the crisis, as the EU Parliament recently called the European Commission to block funding for Poland due to alleged violations of the rule of law in the country by the ruling Law and Justice party.