Putin wants Ukraine due to its EU, Nato ambitions, president tells CNBC

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to enslave Ukraine because of its will to join the EU and Nato, Poland's president told the CNBC TV broadcaster on Wednesday.

Andrzej Duda, currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said Putin wanted to extend his regime over Ukraine, because he was unable to accept the idea that Ukraine wanted to be part of "the community of free states."

Duda stressed that Ukraine's fate in the conflict depended on the aid it receives from the West.

"Today what will happen in Ukraine is going to be determined by the level of support that the Western countries, broadly speaking EU countries are going to provide to Ukraine but not just them, also the United States, Australia, Canada, all nations that are part of what we call 'the free world'," he told CNBC. 

Duda said failure to halt Putin in Ukraine could encourage the Russian leader to attack other countries and recalled warnings voiced during Russia's attack on Georgia in 2008 by Poland's then president Lech Kaczynski.

"We, Poles, often like to remind ourselves and others what our then president, Lech Kaczynski, said back in Tbilisi in 2008 during the Russian aggression against Georgia. He stood on the main road in Tbilisi where crowds had gathered. He said: 'It's Georgia today, it could be the Baltic countries tomorrow, Ukraine and then it could be my country, Poland'," Duda explained.

“We are fully aware of the fact that these imperial, colonial aims are re-emerging. Russia is basically behaving like a colonial country. It wants to colonise others, take away their freedoms, exploit their resources. It wants to juice other people’s potential, their economic potential, their natural resources. Today that's what's happening in Ukraine. It would be the same for other countries," the Polish president said. 

According to Duda, Western aid to Ukraine was insufficient to totally halt Russia. 

"I always reiterate that it is first and foremost due to the bravery of the Ukrainian people who defend their homeland… We support them by sending them modern weaponry, and despite Russians being far greater in numbers and possessing more hardware, the Ukrainians are still capable of withstanding them through their bravery and with help of our modern weaponry. Withstand but not yet stop them. They need more help to repel them," Duda said.

Asked about Poland's rule of law conflict with the EU over judicial reforms, Duda said the West was unable to fully understand the problems faced by former communist countries. He said this was also true with regard to Poland's judiciary, which was still struggling under residues of the former communist system.

"We need to take our time to complete these reforms. We are a democratic country. It is being done with the consent of the Polish electorate," he added.