Poland Is Getting Up Off Its Knees: New Diplomacy of Law and Justice

Michczu // CC 4.0

In Poland, everyone remembers the infamous “San Escobar” blooper. In one of his interviews, Witold Waszczykowski – then the Minister of Foreign Affairs – spoke about the numerous conversations he had during his stay in the New York City. Everything would be fine if he hadn’t mentioned San Escobar, a non-existent country, among those with whose representatives he supposedly met.

It was not the only rash thing Waszczykowski said in the past. Once, in an interview for German Bild he stated that cyclists and vegetarians are the elements of the “leftist disease”. Even though he was publicly criticized for it, his statement has never influenced Polish foreign policy as such.

He indeed was laughed at both in Poland and abroad, but the public opinion quite quickly forgot about the whole case. Shortly, Waszczykowski was replaced by the MFA.

Poles, from all political sides, believed in his successor. Jacek Czaputowicz, a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, an intellectual, seemed to be a “lesser evil” withen the Law and Justice (PiS) camp and by far the most suitable candidate for a ministerial position from the Kaczyński’s party.

Unfortunately, Czaputowicz turned out to be an equally bad choice for Poland’s position and reputation abroad. During his term, Polish foreign policy literally collapsed.

One of the aims of Polish politics was to prove the European Union that, simply put, we don’t need them.

The government tried to manifest Poland’s friendship with the United States instead. It was a sign from the Polish government that the alliance with Americans is enough for us to maintain security and a strong position on the international arena.

It was, therefore, not surprising that when MFA Czaputowicz learned from the media about the decision of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, regarding the organization of a Middle East conference in Warsaw, he didn’t get upset that no one from the US had asked him for a permission.

The Ministry politely confirmed their willingness to host the conference. The PiS party hoped it would not only strengthen our position in the region, but also help in tightening relations with the US, and Israel. Nothing could be more wrong than that.

The conference was doomed to failure long before it has even began. Key politicians, including High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, or representatives of the majority of Middle Eastern states, rejected the invitation to the conference. Other countries, including Germany, decided to send to Warsaw deputy ministers and lower-ranked diplomats.

And then this happened. 

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to take part in the conference. His presence was pretty much convenient for the Polish government; for a long time, Prime Minister Morawiecki dreamed of establishing a broadly understood trilateral cooperation with Israel and the US.

Netanyahu came to Warsaw, but instead of tightening the alliance, we observed the escalation of another diplomatic crisis. All because of the Prime Minister of Israel, who was reported to say that during the Holocaust, Poles cooperated with the Nazis.

In general, his presence at the conference can be viewed only as a part of an election campaign and an attempt to reach the nationalist electorate at home.

What was the reaction of the Polish government? Panic.

Moreover, PM Morawiecki decided to cancel his participation in the planned meeting of the Visegrad Group, which was about to take place in… Israel, which leads us to another failure of the Poland’s foreign policy.

Prime Minister Morawiecki hoped that none of the leaders of the Visegrad countries would take part in the meeting in Israel to express their solidarity with Poland. Such behavior would at least to some extent help Poland save a face. We would prove that maybe the United States or Israel don’t treat us as the real, strong allies, but our friends from the region can sacrifice a lot for us.

Again, nothing could be more wrong.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary decided that good relations with Israel would bring them more benefits than solidarity with Poland. Not only did their representatives fly to Israel, but they seemed to be really satisfied with the meeting.

One conference, two days. Polish Foreign Policy lost all of the dignity it has had left. The PiS party can no longer pretend the United States treat us as an equal partner or that we are building a strong economic cooperation with Israel. We can even question the cooperation in the framework of the V4, the one that was so promoted by the ruling party.

Although that event has proved that no state could ever replace the strategic partnership we have with the European Union, Jarosław Kaczyński’s eurosceptic policy will never be replaced.

The only question is – what for?

Adam Szlapka