Here’s The Real Reason Why Russia’s Duma Speaker Requested Reparations From Poland
Optics are always important, but those connected with whether it’s Russia or Poland that’s the first to cut off ties are disproportionately significant for the latter’s ruling “Law & Justice” party ahead of this fall’s elections.
Polish President Andrzej Duda threatened last September that his country might demand reparations from Russia for the USSR’s role in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact upon successfully coercing such from Germany for the Nazis’ destruction of Poland and genocide of six million Poles. The preceding hyperlinks argued that these efforts are motivated by the ruling party’s electoral considerations ahead of this fall’s vote and are also part of a regional power play in Central & Eastern Europe.
Amidst the latest deterioration of Russian-Polish ties brought about by Warsaw seizing a Russian Embassy-run school in the capital late last month, which was aimed at provoking the Kremlin into being the first to cut off ties, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin requested that Poland pay Russia reparations. The Google Translated version of his Telegram post that compellingly made the case for this will be shared in full below for the reader’s convenience:
“Poland has betrayed historical memory.
She forgot that her liberation from the fascist invaders was given to the Soviet people at a high price.
A third of the current Polish territories - areas with developed infrastructure, industrial enterprises, as well as rich in natural resources - became part of it after the Second World War only thanks to our country.
In the post-war period, the Soviet people, tearing away from themselves, spent more than 750 billion dollars on the restoration and development of Poland, according to today's estimates (more than 800 industrial, energy, and transport facilities have been built).
Poland exists as a state only thanks to our country.
Poles act vilely:
1. They demolish monuments to the Soviet soldier-liberator.
2. They close Russian schools.
3. They steal Russian property.
They behave in a rude way.
Having abandoned the common history, desecrated the memory of our soldiers and officers, Poland must return the territories acquired as a result of World War II and reimburse our country for the funds spent on it in the war and post-war years.
In addition, it would be right to forbid Poland from cashing in on Russia today: to stop the passage of Polish trucks through the territory of our country. Let the goods be loaded onto Russian trucks. Our citizens will earn on transportation. Poland's costs in this case could be about 8.5 billion euros.
According to experts, as a result of this, about 2,000 Polish transport companies, which employ more than 20,000 drivers, will suffer or go bankrupt. The question will be considered at the Council of the Duma on Monday.”
Volodin preempted Poland’s planned reparations demand by arguing that it should pay Russia reparations instead. His logic is sound since the USSR did indeed invest an astronomical amount of money in Poland’s post-war reconstruction at the expense of its own people. Moscow also ensured that Warsaw’s loss of Western Belarus and Ukraine, which were a bone of contention between them for two decades and mostly inhabited by restive minorities, was replaced some of with the German losers’ land.
Had the USSR not defeated the Nazis, then Hitler’s genocide of the Polish people would have continued until its intended conclusion of completely eradicating them and enslaving the few who remained. The Soviets could also have exploited Poland as an impoverished buffer state between Germany and their country after World War II but instead sought to rebuild it for humanitarian-ideological reasons. These facts explain why it’s indeed the case that “Poland exists as a state only thanks to [Russia].”
Warsaw’s betrayal of this historical memory in the three ways that Volodin highlighted serves as the pretext for him to preempt its reparations demand of Russia by arguing that Poland’s actually the one that should pay compensation. Realizing that it’s impossible to ever receive the suggested $750 billion if it’s officially requested, he suggested stopping the transit of Polish trucks through Russian territory with the intent of its companies then having to pay his country’s up to an estimated €8.5 billion a year.
It's unlikely that Volodin sincerely expects Polish companies to agree to this, especially since he predicted in his post that this will literally make up to 2,000 of them “suffer or go bankrupt.” They’ll therefore either change their operations or go out of business instead of pay Russian truckers. With this in mind, the Duma Speaker might have instead sought to create the pretext for Poland to be the first to cut off bilateral ties in protest of these additional costs as well as the potential reparations request.
Optics are always important, but those connected with whether it’s Russia or Poland that’s the first to cut off ties are disproportionately significant for the latter’s ruling “Law & Justice” (PiS) party. If Moscow moves first after being provoked to do so by Warsaw seizing more of its diplomatic property, then PiS can exploit this in order to cultivate more support ahead of this fall’s elections, pressure the EU to cut off ties with Russia “out of solidarity”, and present itself as the US’ most reliable anti-Russian ally.
By flirting with the de facto imposition of sanctions against around 2,000 Polish transport companies in parallel with requesting reparations from Poland for the USSR’s post-war reconstruction of that country, however, Russia is putting PiS in a position where it’s pressured to cut off ties first instead. Failure to do so would discredit its anti-Russian credentials at home and abroad, while going ahead with this would discredit its anti-Russian sanctions policy and reparations demands by appearing hypocritical.
PiS would look weak either way: the first scenario could be spun by the opposition as it being “scared” of Russia, while the second shows that it can dish out sanctions and make reparations demands but can’t take them from others. Moreover, Volodin’s suggestion that Poland should return its new post-war territory is meant to discredit its reparations demands of Germany, which officially regards the issue as settled but informally believes that Warsaw’s control of this land was overly generous compensation.
With these unstated intentions in mind, it can thus be concluded that the Duma Speaker’s latest Telegram post is an asymmetrical response to Poland’s latest anti-Russian provocations. It throws PiS into a dilemma that’s literally of its own making by cleverly using its sanctions and reparations policies against that ruling party. It remains to be seen who’ll be the first to cut off ties, but there’s little doubt that each is now trying to push the other into being the one to initiate this seemingly inevitable move.