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CNN’s Spin On The Polish-Ukrainian Dispute Dishonestly Ignores Why Poles Are So Offended
Zelensky's remarks were absolutely unacceptable because they falsely equated Poland’s role in Ukraine with Russia’s despite all that the former’s government and civil society have done to support Kiev and its refugees.
CNN’s Luke McGee published a piece on Saturday declaring that “Poland’s spat with Ukraine angered many in Europe, and was a gift for Putin”, which downplays the real reasons behind the Polish-Ukrainian dispute that Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk recently hinted was Germany’s fault. The preceding two hyperlinked pieces provide the background context for better understanding the forthcoming critique and subsequent analysis of CNN’s spin on this issue.
McGee began by describing Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s decision to stop sending modern arms to Ukraine as “the latest example of more confrontational behavior from Poland’s government toward Kyiv”, though without citing other alleged incidents. He also dishonestly omitted the part from Zelensky’s UNGA rant where he strongly implied that Poland was the country that the Ukrainian leader accused of “helping set the stage to a Moscow actor.”
This false framing of Morawiecki’s announcement manipulates unaware readers into thinking that Poland is bullying Ukraine when the reality is that it’s actually Ukraine that’s bullying Poland, which will be returned to at the end of this piece. Moving along, CNN’s UK and European Policy and Politics Editor then implied that the ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party’s unilateral extension of its Ukrainian grain restrictions is purely motivated by an interest to retain the rural vote ahead of the 15 October elections.
He wrote that “Farmers are motivated political agents and citizens tend to care about food security, sometimes disproportionately and irrationally. And the PiS will need rural votes to remain in power.” This assessment makes it seem like it’s abnormal for anyone to care about food security even though it’s actually an issue of universal concern. There’s nothing “irrational” in caring about food prices or farmers’ livelihoods so that part of McGee’s article is yet another example of his dishonesty.
Therefore, unilaterally extending Ukrainian grain restrictions makes perfect sense from the standpoint of Poland’s objective national interests, which discredits McGee’s description of this policy as “a tub-thumping, headline-grabbing, nationalist gesture.” He’s not the only one in CNN’s article who’s biased against Poland since the unnamed European officials who he then cites also don’t have a favorable impression of that country or its two latest moves either.
One European official was quoted as saying that “This is all elections blabla…farmers are a PiS constituency”, while another told him that “[Poles] have to play muscles now because of the elections.” A third European official who was described as a “senior” one said that “Ukraine already offered Poland a solution on grain. Which is why they’re so pissed off at Poland. As are 24 member states who have been bullied for 18 months by Poland for not doing enough to support Ukraine.”
An EU Commission official also that “It needs to be seen in the context of the upcoming elections, the nationalist agenda of the current government and aggressive stances on the grain issue, migration and anything they see as a ‘threat’ to national interests of Poland. They also attack Brussels and the EU when it fits their agenda. It’s a desperate effort to mobilize the voter – if you have no substance to offer then you start to create and blame an outside enemy to cover up for domestic policy failures.”
These quotes from four unnamed European officials are meant to authoritatively reinforce the spin the McGee earlier put on this story, after which he segued into supporting Zelensky’s innuendo that Poland is doing Russia’s bidding. In his words, “Poland’s arms tantrum allows countries who feel they have been strong-armed – not least by Poland – to support Ukraine can now legitimately push back on the wisdom of the West throwing so much support to a country that is not even in the alliance.”
This spin artist concluded that “Russia’s misinformation war is often described by diplomats as a zero-sum game: what is bad for the West is good for Russia. Public spats between the West makes it easy to claim that the West is divided, and a divided West is certainly a good thing for the Kremlin.” None of what McGee wrote in his piece accurately reflects reality so the rest of this analysis will explain the reasons why Poles across the political spectrum are so offended in order for observers not to be misled.
The grain disagreement that set the Polish-Ukrainian dispute into motion affects Poland’s objective national interests since it’s doubly irresponsible to kill its own agricultural industry and then make the population’s food security dependent on production in a war-torn neighbor. Ukraine should have calmly understood this and been content with the fact that Poland still allows its grain to transit through the country to other markets, but instead Zelensky escalated by smearing Poland as a Russian puppet.
That was absolutely unacceptable because it falsely equated Poland’s role in Ukraine with Russia’s despite all that the former’s government and civil society have done to support Kiev and its refugees. Not only that, but most Poles have a negative view of Russia for historical reasons even if they themselves aren’t Russophobic in the bigoted sense, so this was a major insult to them personally. It also proved that Kiev is indeed ungrateful for all the help that they and their government have provided.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau admitted in a tweet that “Titanic work will be necessary to rebuild the trust of Polish society in the goodwill of the Ukrainian authorities”, after which Morawiecki thundered that “I want to tell President Zelensky never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the UN. The Polish people will never allow this to happen, and defending the good name of Poland is not only my duty and honor, but also the most important task of the Polish government.”
These reactions embody the sincere emotions of the Polish people after Zelensky’s unprecedented insult against all of them, which were expressed despite pressure to remain silent out of alleged concern that speaking out would supposedly contribute to “Russia’s misinformation war” like McGee fearmongered. What he and those unnamed European officials who he cited in his piece want is for Poland to sacrifice its objective national interests and swallow its pride for the sake of so-called “solidarity” against Russia.
That’s even more unacceptable than what Zelensky just did since it suggests that the West considers Poland and its people to be second-class in the sense that they’re expected to let Ukraine bully them with impunity lest they be smeared as “Russian puppets” for daring to speak up after being disrespected. In truth, this is how they’ve always been treated as proven by the EU’s lawfare against them for carrying out judicial reforms and refusing immigrant quotas, but it’s only now that most Poles are realizing this.
Some might describe those two issues as “partisan”, but the grain one and Zelensky’s insult indisputably cut across political divides since they involve objective national interests and personal self-respect. Most observers either can’t grasp this for whatever reason or are driven by dishonest intentions like McGee is to deceive their audience. Regardless of what’s behind every misportrayal of the Polish-Ukrainian dispute, these information provocations will only fuel more resentment from average Poles.