Poland's Minister Przydacz sees India's 'positive' role amid the Ukraine-Russia crisis

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
NEW DELHI Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 08:16 PM(IST)

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz. Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

Speaking to WION's diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Warsaw, Minister Przydacz said, "India is one of the most important actors on the international scene and the biggest democracy."

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz sees India's role as positive amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis without taking Moscow's name and said, " You have relatively good relations with those countries. As I said, there is a possibility of India's involvement in diplomacy. "

The West is worried over a Russian invasion of Ukraine, something that Moscow has been dismissing.

Speaking to WION's diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Warsaw, Minister Przydacz said, "India is one of the most important actors on the international scene and the biggest democracy."

On Poland's hosting of Ukrainian refugees, the minister pointed out, "Poland, as the neighbouring country, needs to be ready to host possible refugees. As always, we are ready to help those who are in need, but hopefully it won't happen."

Poland shares borders with Ukraine and also the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

On Taiwan, he said, while his country "sticks to one China policy" at "economical level, we are ready to cooperate with Taipei."

Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the current situation in eastern Europe? The last few days have been dramatic. Your foreign minister was in Moscow. How do you assess the situation?

Marcin Przydacz: First of all, thank you very much for having me. It is very important for us, the Poles, to share our assessment and perspective with the Indian public.

Your country is a very important actor on the international scene, so it is of crucial importance for us to share our perspective and opinions with you. With regards to the current situation in the central and eastern regions, as you have probably seen, Russia is continuing its aggressive posturing and policy towards Ukraine and other countries in this region.

There are more than 100,000 troops deployed just next to the Ukrainian border, so there is a kind of pressure on the Ukrainian state. The expectation from the Russian side is to somehow stop the possible integration of Ukraine into the European Union and NATO.

With a pro-western orientation, Ukraine is one of the biggest countries of the post-soviet era, Russia is not happy with the fact that Ukraine is doing better and better with regards to cooperation with the west. The living standards of the country have not dropped but increased, and it could be a very bad example for the Russian government. One day, Russian public opinion may ask how it happened that the Ukrainian nation is doing better than the Russian one. 

So, the Russian government is trying to build some kind of sphere of influence and to build, as he said, a Soviet empire. He once said the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest tragedy of the 21st century, so his strategy is to rebuild, but unfortunately, it is at the cost of sovereign independent countries, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. 

We cannot allow that to happen. To rebuild the Soviet empire based on not very democratic rules. And Poland is very much in favour of peaceful cooperation and stability, and it should be up to the Ukrainian nation and society to decide what the future of their own country is.

Sidhant Sibal: Do you think the war clouds have dissipated?

Marcin Przydacz: Rather than simply announcing the withdrawal of troops, we are very interested in the final decision.Once the troops are sent back home, we will welcome such a decision.

So far, we have not noticed the de-escalation, but rather the escalation. Even yesterday, a Ukrainian state organization and Ukraine's banking system were attacked in the sphere of cyber.

This aggressive behaviour by Russia is continuing rather than, as it is being said, de-escalation. We are very much in favour of de-escalation, waiting for a concrete decision rather than just talking. Diplomats are very much interested in discussing how to find a solution, but not at any cost. As diplomats, we cannot compromise on international regulation; we cannot compromise on a democratic, free world.We are ready to continue the dialogue. That is why Minister Rau, the Polish foreign affairs minister, yesterday paid a visit to Moscow to discuss a possible solution. We are the chairman of the OSCE, or Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, this year, so we do have some responsibility for European security; we are ready to discuss and talk with Russians, but the first decision we expect from our Russian neighbours is to withdraw troops from Ukraine's border and Belarus' territory.More than 30,000 Belarus troops are actively exercising on the territory of Belarus, just next to the Ukraine and Polish borders. This is pressure by the Russian state on the Ukrainian government, so that is why we had to ask our American allies to deploy NATO troops to Poland. That is why we are discussing possible sanctions on Russia in the event of further escalation. We need to be ready as the free world, democratic society, and community of the free world. 

Sidhant Sibal: Poland fears an influx that could go up to 2-3 million. How is Poland geared up to tackle it?

Marcin Przydacz: We still do hope that the situation will be deescalated and that there will be no incursions, no Russian attacks on sovereign countries like Ukraine. We are doing our best to find a solution. We need to be prepared for a possible migration, a possible wave of refugees from Ukraine to Poland. We are trying to be ready, discussing it at a national level but also at an international level on how to deal with that. But so far, we should avoid panic inside the Ukrainian state, and that is also the decision of the Ukrainian government to stabilise the situation, not to panic. As far as I understand and as far as I know the Ukrainian people, they are ready to resist and defend their independence and sovereignty of their country, not thinking about fleeing the country. If this happens, Poland, as the neighbouring country, needs to be ready to host possible refugees. As always, we are ready to help those who are in need, but hopefully it won't happen. 

Sidhant Sibal: On Russia's demand for demilitarisation of states like Poland and other eastern European countries

Marcin Przydacz: Let me remind you of the history of the last 20 years. It was not Poland or NATO countries attacking other countries. It was Russia dominating other countries. NATO is the defence ally. For example, Belarus, Recently, Russia deployed its troops, in Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In 2008, Russia attacked the independent state of Georgia, capturing or taking some parts of the territory of this country. In 2014, Russia took Crimea and part of Donbas. We are very much concerned with this aggressive policy being conducted by the Russian government. That is why we are deploying as Nato troops on the territory of NATO countries. We are not interested in sending them anywhere else. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, that was the decision of our govts to invite more allies in order to continue the policy of deterrence. What we want to show is to deter Russia and to show them we are ready to defend our country and we are ready to deter this aggressive policy of Russia.  


Sidhant Sibal: What role do you see for India in the crisis, in terms of pacifying the crisis?

Marcin Przydacz: As I said, India is one of the most important actors on the international scene and the biggest democracy. It also has the potential to have a positive impact and a positive influence on security architecture. Both of our countries stand to benefit greatly from the fact that this security architecture has helped to stabilise the global situation.Some countries, starting with Russia, are trying to challenge this architecture to change. These are authoritarian regimes. What we need to do, as democratic states, is to continue our cooperation and dialogue. As you have relatively good relations with those countries, as I said, there is a possibility of India's involvement in diplomacy. We are very much interested in continuing our dialogue. There is already talk of your officials paying a visit.

Three years ago, Minister Jaishankar was in Poland and also the situation in Eastern and Central Europe. Minister Rau was at the Raisina dialogue conference. I hope there will be a continuation of good talks, discussing how to deal with those threats and challenges based on international law and finding a way to coexist.  

Sidhant Sibal: What are your thoughts on the India-Poland relationship?How do you characterise it?

Marcin Przydacz: I have to say, I welcome the current state of relations; they are developing well. Despite the pandemic, political contact remains good. It proves that our ties are close and there is still potential for further development. I hope more consultations will happen at a higher level. There are good foundations for ties. We still very much remember the fact that a very significant number of Polish migrants and refugees from Siberia during World War 2 were hosted by the Indian population and high officials. Several thousand Indian students in Poland have a significant Polish business community in your country. We need to bring back direct flights between Warsaw and New Delhi and Warsaw and Mumbai. As you know, a couple of years ago, we launched a new direct flight by LOT Polish Airlines, directly from Warsaw to Delhi, and I had the pleasure of opening this flight. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to stop this direct connection. I do really hope we bring it back in order to offer our citizens better people-to-people contact, because this is the most important thing in our country's relations. More Indian students and business people are very much welcomed in Poland, as well as the Polish business community, which will be welcomed in significant numbers in your country. Finally, in Poland, we are big fans of your movies and cinema industry. There have been several films shot in Poland, and we do hope this will be continued. 

Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the cultural connection? Recently, a Polish national was honoured with the top Indian award, the Padma award.

Marcin Przydacz: As I said, Bollywood is very popular in Poland, and we do hope that we will find even more opportunities to explore this part of our relationship. You mentioned that the former envoy of Poland was granted a very important prize in India, an award in India. Academicians, politicians, or diplomats' work or jobs are very much acknowledged by the Indian government and Indian society. We need to find more opportunities in order to explore this part of our relationship. Poles are very much interested in Indian culture.


Sidhant Sibal: How much is the worry over Belarus migrant issue for you? has it subsided or is still underway?

Marcin Przydacz: Well, you should not call it a crisis, it was the artificial crisis, very well planned by the authoritarian regime of Mr Lukashenko. He after elections, was sanctioned by the European Union and his answer, he said it publicly that he will create the refugee or the migration crisis that is why he encouraged many possible migrants from the middle east countries, from the Asian countries in order to come to Belarus and they were forcibly pushed to the border with Poland, Lithuania illegally in order to cross this border. Unfortunately, those people found themselves in a very difficult and dire situation. In winter they got stuck in a forest, legally on the territory of Belarus but basically being bullets in the hands of the authoritarian regime of Mr Lukashenko. This crisis is not over yet, hundreds of migrants in the hands of Lukashenko, waiting for the right moment to be pushed through the border. Let me also tell you, or the Indian society beware of the fact that being invited to Belarus means you can be used as a bullet in the hands of an authoritarian regime and pushed through the border. I know Belarus diplomats are very actively searching for new possibilities to bring innocent people to Belarus and then use them as political instruments against the EU, Poland. We would not like to have this with the friendly nation of India. 


Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the Polish role or policy on the Indo-Pacific, when countries like Germany and France have been taking a lead?

Marcin Przydacz: Well, first of all after regaining full sovereignty and independence. After the collapse of the soviet union, we have joined NATO, EU and the natural environment for us was to be very concentrated on EU Affairs, transatlantic affairs. Now our economy is doing very well, we are in a much better position than 30 years ago. So, a lot of business people are interested in finding a place to invest in the Indo-pacific area. Our diplomats have been quite active in your region. We are reopening our embassies. In New Delhi, it was opened years ago but recently in several countries of your region we opened embassies. There is also room for better relations with countries of the Indo-Pacific. I know China is trying to challenge several things, in the Indo-Pacific area, we have been trying to be active as well to keep the stability through the instruments we have bilaterally. At the level of the EU we have the Indo-Pacific strategy, we as Poland are very active in this discussion. Asia is the continent of 21st century. Huge potential, Poland is trying to be active in every possible level--diplomatic, political, economic cooperation and cultural collaboration. 


Sidhant Sibal: China has been aggressive in Indo Pacific; how do u see Chinese actions in the region? 

Marcin Przydacz: We stick to the One China policy, as Poland and there are a lot of challenges with regards to China but what is crucial is to keep the dialogue discussing all those issues which are problematic, just like with others. We know that India is in very good contact with Moscow although we do not prescribe Moscow's behavior very constructive in our region, let me put that diplomatically.  W eare also trying to be active in keeping the dialogue with Beijing. Our President visited China during the Olympics, to encourage our sportsmen mostly but on the margin, he had a good and frank discussion with President Xi Jinping. So our relations with China are vivid and potential in economic cooperation but there are some issues which need to be discussed and solved and we as Poland are ready to be an active actor in regard to that. 


Sidhant Sibal: Many in Europe, including your Neighbour Lithuania have upgraded ties with Taiwan. Do u plan a deeper engagement and upgradation with the country?

Marcin Przydacz: Well as I said we stick to the one China policy, but we can respect the decision of every sovereign country to have their own interest and own ideas to conduct foreign policy. It was the Lithuanian decision to follow those principles of their interest. But what I can say with regards to Taiwan, we are trying to find new possibilities on how to encourage our business people to cooperate with Taiwan. Taiwan is a big economy, there is potential at the economic level. Of Course at an economical level, we are ready to cooperate with Taipei.

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