Attitude of Polish right-wing political parties to development of Polish-Russian relations

Krzysztof Żęgota,
Ph.D. in Political Science, Assistant Professor,
Institute of Political Science, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn,

The Polish-Russian neighbourhood, cross-border cooperation, as well as the challenges and problems in the centuries-old history make bilateral relations an important element of the political life of both countries. Although one can speak of a certain asymmetry, since Russian issues are a much more important in Polish foreign and security policy than Poland in Russian politics, bilateral relations are the subject of multidimensional political and sociological research. One of the areas of this research is the analysis of the programs of Polish political parties from point of view of the presence of Russian issues and Polish-Russian political relations. The main premise of research in this area is the assumption that in the tradition of Polish political thought, the right-wing parties displayed a more pro-Russian attitude in comparison to the liberal parties. Research on this topic in recent years seems to contradict this thesis.

On the basis of the research of Polish right wing parties, conducted in 2018, the most radical perceptions of Polish-Russian relations are found in the manifestos of Law and Justice (PiS), the National Rebirth of Poland (NOP), the Right Wing of the Republic, and Agreement. Some Polish right parties and groups hold a neutral position on relations with Russia. Their political programmes neither discuss the aggravation of political situation nor call for an equal and pragmatic policy towards Russia. Other right parties in the Polish political stage also think of foreign policy in the vein of achieving balance in relations between Western and Eastern Europe.

An improvement in relations with Russia is proposed by the National Movement. The party calls for abandoning the ‘Jagiellonian myth’, i.e. the belief that Poland should secure support from the states lying between Poland and Russia to build a successor to the Confederation of the era of the first Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The authors of the programme maintain that processes taking place in the new nation-states and their independence created a situation where Poland is not interested in promoting European values in Eastern Europe and creating a new federation of Central and Eastern European states. As to bilateral relations with Russia, the party places emphasis on the restoration of economic and political relations and admits that, given the current economic and military capacities, Russia is not a threat to Poland. Therefore, there is no actual clash of interests.

The programmes of right-wing parties consider the economic and social aspects of relations with Russia. Law and Justice (PiS) voices the sharpest criticism of Russia. The PiS programme pays special attention to energy independence from Russia. As to the security of natural gas supplies, the party calls for the expansion of the LNG terminal in Świnoujście and the development of gas imports from the Nordic countries. A the same time The Right Wing of the Republic argues for broader rights for Poland in bilateral relations with Russia and the overcoming of the current asymmetry. The party stresses that “Russia’s economic relations with Poland and Central Europe (particularly, the Baltics) should be organised on the principle of fair exchange, following the common rules for cooperation between Russia and Europe”. In turn, the National Movement seeks an improvement in relations with Russia. It calls for the resumption of trade relations with Russia and a search for new expansion opportunities in the Russian market. According to the party programme, Poland should focus on strengthening the positions of its businesses in the Russian market rather than on promoting the economic interests of other actors, including the EU and Ukraine. In recognising energy dependence from Russia, the party points towards diversification of energy supply.

Presented analysis helped to establish a clear connection between international developments and the programmes of political parties. For instance, the Ukraine crisis provoked a considerable reaction. Some right parties levelled heavy criticism at Russia. Another important conclusion is that the right-wing parties that are considered as pro-Russian in Polish political discourse (the National Rebirth of Poland and the National Radical Camp) either are not such or pay little attention to the Russia’s agenda. The attitude to Russia held by some right parties is a result of domestic political struggle in Poland, particularly, of some right parties being accused of pro-Russian sentiment. Some Polish conservative and agrarian parties have faced similar accusations.

Another important element of political party programmes is the economic agenda. In particular, party programs consider the Russian factor in the context of energy security and the sanctions policy of the EU. All this proves that external factors affect party programmes. The analysis proves that international factors affect the programmes of political parties as regards relations with Russia.

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