Poland has been steadily rising in influence as a major player in Eastern Europe, and this has caused concern for Germany, which traditionally held that role. Growing power and influence of Poland are due to a combination of factors, including its economic growth, political stability, and strategic location.
Poland: Economic Growth and Power
Poland has experienced impressive economic growth since the fall of communism in 1989. It has transformed from a centrally planned economy to a market-oriented one and is now the sixth-largest economy in the European Union (EU) and the largest in Central and Eastern Europe. Its GDP has increased by an average of 4% annually, and it is projected to remain one of the fastest-growing economies in the EU.
Poland has also achieved political stability since the fall of communism. It has been a democratic country since 1989, and its current ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), has been in power since 2015. PiS has been criticized for its nationalist and conservative policies, but Poland has maintained a strong grip on power and has implemented policies that have resonated with many Polish citizens. This has helped to solidify position of Poland as a regional power.
Poland’s strategic location in Central Europe has also contributed to its growing influence. It borders Germany to the west, Russia to the east, and Ukraine to the southeast. It is also a member of NATO and the EU, which has helped to strengthen its relationships with Western Europe.
Changing dynamics amidst the Russo-Ukraine war
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been a major source of tension in Eastern Europe. The situation escalated in 2022 when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, resulting in widespread devastation and loss of life. In response, the international community has rallied to support Ukraine, with Poland playing a critical role in providing assistance and support to Ukraine and its allies in the West.
Poland has been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, offering political and diplomatic support to the Ukrainian government and its efforts to resist Russian aggression. Polish officials have been vocal in their condemnation of Russian actions, calling for an immediate end to the violence and advocating for sanctions against the Kremlin.
In addition to political support, Poland has also been a key provider of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In the early days of the conflict, Poland quickly mobilized resources to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to Ukrainians affected by the violence. Polish NGOs have also been active in providing relief to Ukrainian refugees, who have fled the conflict in large numbers.
Beyond humanitarian aid, Poland has also been a significant military partner to Ukraine. In 2014, Poland signed an agreement to provide training and support to the Ukrainian armed forces, including the provision of military equipment and personnel. Since the outbreak of the conflict, Poland has continued to provide military aid to Ukraine, with Polish troops participating in joint military exercises with Ukrainian forces and offering strategic guidance on how to defend against Russian aggression.
Poland has also been a key player in rallying support from its allies in the West. In 2022, Polish officials were instrumental in organizing a meeting of the NATO alliance in Warsaw, where leaders from the United States, Canada, and Europe pledged their support for Ukraine and condemned Russian aggression. Polish officials have also been active in lobbying for increased sanctions against Russia, both at the European Union and United Nations levels.
This has helped Warsaw cement a good reputation in the eyes of the US, unlike Germany, which has been denounced by Western powers for failing to aid Ukraine.
Besides, the war has resulted in huge scarcity of resources like oil and gas which western nations such as Germany were highly dependent on Russia for. Poland, in particular, is rapidly replacing Russia in providing supplies to eastern Germany. The latter is losing its autonomy in the sourcing of raw materials, which hitherto was based on diversification and Nord Stream, and relies increasingly on Warsaw.
The Polish government, taking advantage of such a situation, is pursuing an aggressive supply policy effectively asserting itself as the market gatekeeper in eastern Germany.
But how did the Polish come to supply such huge amounts of oil and gas to European nations? After all, Warsaw doesn’t have the infrastructure to become a replacement for Russian oil in the European market.
Well here’s the reality. Poland has been by far the European Union’s biggest importer of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Russia during the war in Ukraine, a new report shows. It spent €710 million on Russian LPG in 2022, which is almost two thirds of the €1.1 billion spent by EU countries as a whole.
In March last year, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Polish government pledged to stop all energy imports from Russia by the end of 2022. The following month, the prime minister also pledged to end LPG imports within the same timeframe.
But, whereas coal and gas imports were ended and oil drastically cut, LPG “purchases were not reduced after the Russian invasion, but actually increased and are continuing uninterruptedly”, notes Forum Energii, the Warsaw-based think tank that has compiled the figures based on Eurostat data.
Russian oil is aiding Poland to replace Germany as the power house in Europe. Sounds poetic, right?
Germany has long been considered the dominant player in Eastern Europe, given its economic and political clout. However, rise of Poland as a regional power has led to tensions with Germany, which has felt threatened by Poland’s growing influence. Germany has expressed concern about Poland’s nationalist and conservative policies, which it sees as a threat to the liberal democratic values of the EU.
As Berlin helplessly watches the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines and is forced to buy LNG at six times the price of Russian gas, its political clout is also gradually shrinking.
What’s happening is not coincidental, but rather part of a scheme by the Polish government, endorsed by some international partners, which aims to replace Germany as Washington’s primary interlocutor within the EU, taking advantage of the current contingency and using precisely the much-criticised leverage arising from energy supplies.
poland’s relations with Germany have been strained in recent years, particularly since the PiS government came to power. The two countries have had disagreements over issues such as the rule of law, migration, and energy policy. Poland’s decision to build a new gas pipeline with Russia has also caused tensions between Berlin and Warsaw.
Germany’s irritation with Poland’s rising power is not limited to political and economic spheres. Poland’s growing influence has also impacted Germany’s cultural dominance in the region. Polish cinema, literature, and art have gained international recognition in recent years, challenging the traditional dominance of German culture in the region.
Poland’s growing power and influence in Eastern Europe have resulted from a combination of factors, including economic growth, political stability, and strategic location. Germany’s frustration with Poland’s rise as a major player in the region is due to its own diminishing influence and concerns about Poland’s nationalist and conservative policies. Therefore, the relationship between the two countries is likely to remain strained as Poland continues to assert its influence in the region.