Poland is a major supplier and conduit of military equipment to Ukraine, and has taken in millions of refugees. This can be partly explained by Poland’s historic animosity towards Russia. In October 2023, the main opposition party the Civic Platform Party (PO in Polish) led by former Polish President and former president of the European Council Donald Tusk won the parliamentary elections. PO is anti-Russian but more liberal socially and opposed PiS initiatives to reduce press freedoms and judicial independence.

PiS is strongest in Poland’s east and southeast while PO’s support is predominately in the north and west. Interestingly, this 21st-century electoral divide follows the partition lines of 19th-century Poland when Prussia controlled Poland’s north and west, and Russia or Austria controlled Poland’s eastern and southern regions. This electoral divide is a legacy of 19th-century development trajectories when the Prussian-occupied areas of Poland were industrialized and the Russian and Austrian areas remained agricultural except for Warsaw and Kraków (which support PO). Many young people in Poland’s east move to larger cities, seeking education and private-sector jobs. Those who feel left behind have flocked to PiS, which offers nationalist rhetoric and monetary handouts.

The war has changed the political dialogue from economic growth and justice to national security. PO emphasizes economic development, European integration, and security. Both PiS and PO see the United States as Poland’s most important partner and both want to see the Russians defeated in Ukraine. PiS enjoys the support of Poland’s public television, which is under government control, while PO enjoys the support of an American-owned private television channel, TV 24, which many Poles consider the country’s last independent media voice.

Poland is not immune to outside influences and domestic questions regarding the war in Ukraine. Russia has not forgotten Poland when it comes to subversion and information operations.

While a clear majority of Poles support Ukraine and millions have brought Ukrainian refugees into their homes, an undercurrent of anti-Ukrainian sentiment does exist.

Poles are not buying the Russian narrative of peace at all costs. What most Poles want in Ukraine is a just and lasting peace and are afraid of a Russian victory. Over two-thirds of Polish society have helped Ukraine personally by taking in refugees, donations, or other actions. There is Russian disinformation in Poland and Russia coopted anti-COVID vaccine activists into espousing pro-Russian narratives that there is a moral equivalency between Russian and Ukraine in the war. The main unknowns in protecting Poland from further Russian disinformation is how long the war will last and will economic troubles cause doubt about expenditures to support Ukraine. However Poland’s history makes it very unfertile ground for Russian disinformation.

History, geography, and personalities explain why Poland, while somewhat similar to Hungary domestically, has a diametrically opposite foreign policy regarding the Russo-Ukraine War. Poland has suffered much longer Russian occupations than Hungary. Besides being forced into the Soviet bloc as Hungary was, Poland was partitioned and occupied by Russia from 1772–1917. It shares a border with Russia along the Kaliningrad oblast and another one with Russia’s ally Belarus, which allows its territory to be used to attack Ukraine. Most Poles still support Ukraine because they fear a Russian victory. But the longer the war, the wider the cracks could become.



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