21st September 2023 – (Warsaw) Poland, one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, has decided to halt the supply of weapons to the country amidst an escalating diplomatic dispute over grain. Instead, Poland’s prime minister announced that the nation would focus on equipping itself with more modern weaponry. This decision comes as tensions between the two countries continue to rise.
The rift between Poland and Ukraine deepened when Poland summoned Ukraine’s ambassador in response to comments made by President Volodymyr Zelensky during his address at the United Nations. President Zelensky’s remarks regarding nations showing feigned solidarity with Ukraine were denounced by Warsaw as unjustified, particularly considering Poland’s unwavering support for Ukraine since the early days of the war.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made the announcement to cease weapon supplies to Ukraine in a televised speech on Wednesday, following a day of rapidly intensifying tensions between the two nations over grain imports.
The grain dispute originated after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine effectively closed the main Black Sea shipping lanes, forcing Ukraine to seek alternative overland routes. Consequently, significant quantities of grain ended up in central Europe. As a result, the European Union temporarily banned grain imports into five countries – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia – to safeguard local farmers who feared that Ukrainian grain was driving down prices in their respective markets.
While the ban expired on 15th September and was not renewed by the EU, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland opted to maintain its implementation. The European Commission reiterated that trade policy for the bloc is not determined by individual member states.
In response to the bans, Ukraine filed lawsuits with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), arguing that the restrictions violated international obligations. However, Poland, along with the other countries, remained steadfast in their decision and dismissed Ukraine’s legal action, stating that it did not impress them.
Despite the ban, the three countries stated that they would still allow the transportation of grain through their territories to other markets. The French Foreign Minister, Catherina Colonna, remarked on Wednesday that a European Union study revealed Ukrainian grain imports would not severely impact European farmers, emphasizing that the escalating tensions were regrettable.
Poland has been a significant supporter of Ukraine in its defence against Russia, advocating for Germany to provide Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, pledging fighter jets, and accommodating over 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees.