One of Ukraine’s closest and most vocal allies has said it will stop sending arms to Kyiv, a major reversal that threatens to upend Europe’s strategic relationship with the country as it wages a counteroffensive against Russia.
Poland’s decision was both sudden and predictable, coming after months of tensions over a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports to a number of European Union countries.
It also follows a pattern of increasingly confrontational behavior towards Kyiv from Poland’s government, just weeks before a tight general election.
And it could have implications for Ukraine’s attempts to push Russian forces out of the country’s southern regions, in an ongoing assault that has been making slow and grinding progress.
What has Poland announced? “We no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a blunt social media statement on Wednesday.
Morawiecki added in a television interview that Poland will now focus on supplying “the most modern weapons” for its own purposes, state news agency PAP reported. “If you want to defend yourself you have to have something to defend with,” the prime minister said.
It marks a major change in policy. In the spring, Poland became the first NATO country to send fighter jets to Ukraine – months ahead of the United States, which only agreed last month to approve the transfer of F-16 jets, pending the completion of training by Ukrainian forces.
It has also previously sent more than 200 Soviet-style tanks to Ukraine, and most Western military equipment and other supplies reach Ukrainian forces by crossing Polish territory.
Poland will now only carry out the supplies of ammunition and weapons to Kyiv that were agreed before Warsaw made its decision to stop shipments, government spokesman Piotr Muller said Thursday, according to PAP.
Muller emphasized that Ukraine has made a series of “absolutely unacceptable statements and diplomatic gestures” and that “Poland does not accept this type of unjustified actions,” PAP reported.
How did we get here? Pressure has been building for months over a ban on Ukrainian grain, initially put in place earlier this year by several EU nations to protect the livelihood of local farmers worried about being undercut by the low price of Ukrainian grain.
Last week, the EU announced plans to suspend the rule. But three nations – Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – said they intended to defy the change and keep the restrictions in place. It prompted protests from Ukraine, which this week filed lawsuits against all three countries over the issue.