Putin plays European crises with cynical precision, Polish PM says

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is effectively and cynically exploiting European weaknesses and crises, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote in the article published by the British Daily Telegraph on Saturday.

According to Morawiecki, there should be no doubt about Putin’s intentions, because Europe is today "on the verge of war."

"Military conflict is no longer an unlikely scenario. It is a real option. For many generations of young Poles and Europeans, this is the closest they will have come to seeing such a scenario play out. For years, the West has trusted that the 21st century would be free of armed confrontation. Recent experience, however, provides sufficient evidence that Russian aggression is no illusion but a sign that a new chapter is opening in the history of the West," he wrote.

The fact that Russia is trying to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity once again and questions the borders of a sovereign state can only mean one thing, Morawiecki argued: "an assault on European stability and security."

The prime minister added that the Russian threat to peace had grown over the years with the passive attitude of a large number of European governments and leaders who did not have the courage or determination to cut business ties with the Kremlin.

He noted that Europe was increasingly losing on these dealings with Russia in economic terms and pointed out that Russia was artificially deepening the energy crisis in order to force the launch of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.

"For all its madness, Russian policy is painfully rational. Vladimir Putin is cynically and effectively exploiting European weaknesses as we enter the third year of an extremely difficult pandemic, face a growing economic crisis, and now an additional menace coming from our eastern neighbour," Morawiecki wrote.

At the same time, he added that "many members of the European elites have become adept at ignoring the dazzling rebirth of Russian imperial ambitions."

"A long list of leaders has opted for Russian cash; the case of Gerhard Schroder, who exchanged his political career for stakes in Russian energy companies, is just the tip of the iceberg. Among the many European collaborators of Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, and companies building NS2 are former chancellors, prime ministers, senior diplomats, presidential advisors and ministers," Morawiecki wrote.

In his opinion, Moscow's intentions should no longer leave room for doubt. He recalled Putin's article published in July last year on the historical relations between Russia and Ukraine, whose main thesis was the belief that there is no separate Ukrainian nation.

"For Putin, Ukraine is an inseparable part of the Russian world…. His objective seems clear: to make the West withdraw its support for Ukraine and allow Russia a free rein," Morawiecki wrote.

He added that the NS2 gas pipeline proves that Putin's scenario has its supporters in Europe, thanks to which, Gazprom will control gas flow across Europe, making deliveries contingent on political decisions.

Morawiecki believes that in the face of the threat from Russia, solidarity and cooperation are needed throughout the continent.

"Europe and its Transatlantic partners should treat events on the EU’s eastern border as a final warning. The West’s most effective bargaining chips will be potential economic sanctions and a clear intention to block NS2. This should not just be the stance of Poland and other Central European nations. In these critical times, we need true leadership to eliminate the present menace and restore Europe to a path of security and development," he concluded.

Morawiecki’s article was published as part of the worldwide media project 'Telling Poland to the World,' a joint initiative by Poland's Institute for New Media, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the Foreign Ministry and the Polish Press Agency.