Contrary to what polls and forecasts had said, Andrzej Duda, a conservative opposition candidate, won the first round of voting in Poland’s presidential election leaving incumbent President Bronislaw Komorowski behind. Andrzej Duda, a 42-yeasr old politician supported by the main opposition party in Poland – the conservative Law and Justice Party – won 34.77%. President Bronislaw Komorowski, supported by the center-right camp that has ruled Poland for nearly eight years, won 32.77% of the vote.
The result was not final. There will be a run-off election. But Europe was taken by surprise. In Ukraine it also brought into focus the issue of bilateral relations with the neighboring state. Duda lambasted the incumbent government’s social policy. It makes some experts believe he’ll concentrate on improving living standards while being more cautious talking to the Kremlin and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko. Others believe that as an inveterate Russophobe Duda will strictly comply with the Washington’s instructions. He’ll boost the support for Kiev and the military operations conducted by Ukrainian military in the eastern part of the country. The election result, no matter how unexpected it may be, will hardly lead to significant shift in internal and external policies of Poland. The country is subject to outside influence when it comes to foreign policy. It also affects domestic policy-making process. Poland takes decisions that do not serve its national interests, as well as the interests of individuals.
The Law and Justice Party has actively opposed the idea of joining the eurozone but it never put into doubt the EU membership itself. There is little difference between the candidates’ stances on the issue. In comparison with Komorowski Duda is more pro-American. Being pro-US has become kind of birthmark for Polish political establishment. No way could the trend be changed.
Duda has always been an ardent proponent of NATO extension, including military presence on Polish soil. He wants his country to host US bases. Komorowski has also been a pro-NATO politician. Poland has selected the US Patriot missile system for the country's Wisla medium-range air – and missile-defence system. The Alliance is to set up a command center in Poland, a link in the chain of outposts for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s already announced new rapid-response force. Outright anti-German views make Duda stand out among other race runners. No surprise! An average Polish politician hates the neighbors in the east, as well as in the west. This is a specific feature of Polish mentality.
In practice the anti-German rhetoric of Duda is nothing but words with turbid meaning. In general terms, he says that Germany uses Poland for its ends. The presidential race winner knows well just how far he can go. Obama is mired in the European quagmire now. Ukraine is a complicated issue to negatively impact the US-German relationship. If Duda wins the run-off election, he won’t go beyond certain limits. The Poland’s geopolitical role has remained the same since WWI. Neither Komorowski, nor Duda will introduce any real changes.
The leader in the Poland’s presidential race sharply criticizes Moscow for «lack of democracy». According to him, Moscow openly violates international law. He says the contemporary Russia has nothing to do with democracy. On the one hand, he tries to convince voters that there is a threat to the nation coming from the east and an attack against Poland is not excluded. On the other hand, he threatens the Kremlin with «tough stance», «effective diplomacy» and «energy independence». This is the very same stuff Polish politicians have been harping on for the recent thirty years.
Komorowski also threatened Poles with «polite people». In reality he never tried to change the usual pattern of bilateral relationship or meddle into the situation in the areas near the border of Kaliningrad oblast (region) so that the cross-border barter deals could continue as usual. During the Komorowski’s tenure Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna insulted Russia on a number of occasions. To a great extent, he was behind the plot to spoil the celebration of Victory Day in Europe.
The Duda’s victory will not change anything. Warsaw’s enmity towards Moscow will remain, or even become stronger.
Talking about Ukraine, there is no ground to expect any changes. Warsaw acts as a go-between when it comes to some specific aspects of relationship between Washington and Kiev. Like Komorowski, Duda is an ardent supporter of the incumbent regime in Ukraine and its actions in the Donbass. The both politicians do not exclude the possibility of deploying Polish combat units in the area of hostilities.
The goal of any Polish politician is to maintain the country’s crucial role in implementing the Washington’s and Brussel’s East European policies. Ukraine may become a rival. That’s what makes Duda support the idea of expanding the Normandy format of negotiations on the peaceful management of Donbass conflict. Duda lets know that he would like to bring in more participants, for instance, the Ukraine’s neighbors: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. In this case Poland could take advantage of the clout it enjoys to become a chief negotiator. The proposal is of little practical use, but that’s what race runners say in the heat of pre-election campaign. Poland is a parliamentary republic. The ongoing campaign testifies to the fact that the parliamentary election will also have little effect on the country’s foreign policy.
There are no pro-Russian politicians in Poland. Even allegedly Russophile parties such as KORWiN (the Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic – Freedom and Hope) led by Janusz Ryszard Korwin-Mikke or Zmiana (Polish for «Change») led by Mateusz Piskorski could hardly change the state of things even if they won the vote. Perhaps the leaders of these parties are more realistic than others but they have a long way to go till they start to win elections. One president or another, there will be no fresh wind. By and large nothing will change with Duda at the helm.
Brussels should not expect any attacks against the policy of European Union. Russia is not to expect protests against the heroization of OUN-UPA (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Insurgent Army) practiced in Ukraine. Poland will not put an end to anti-Russia escapades. Kiev should not expect the «Polish aid» to increase. And it goes without saying that Washington is not to expect any surprises as it is watching the change of decorations on the Polish political scene. Duda will obediently dance to the tune being played.