Somebody in Poland wants to prove that the Poles are not just the “puppets” of the U.S. president. There is the fact that Russia sent medical equipment to the United States to help fight the coronavirus epidemic, for which both President Donald Trump and the State Department thanked Moscow.* “This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us,”] State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a press release.
And then there is the interpretation of these facts. Noting that “Russia is sending the U.S. help and the Kremlin can use this as propaganda,” the Polish publication Gazeta recalls how the Americans sent milk powder to the Polish People’s Republic in 1986. In response, Jerzy Urban, press secretary for the Polish People’s Republic, announced that Warsaw would provide the homeless of New York with sleeping bags and blankets. The Polish Press Agency turned to Nina Jankowicz, an expert at the Wilson Center, for comment. In the interview with PAP, Jankowicz said that by accepting “humanitarian aid” from Russia, the White House had made a mistake and helped “the Kremlin to secure a big propaganda victory.” She also said that “the quality of the Russian medical equipment is dubious.” According to Jankowicz, “President Trump has repeatedly talked about his desire to improve relations with Russia. But this is not the best opportunity for that. This step is only beneficial for Putin’s propaganda machine.” She added that the leader in the White House “perhaps doesn’t value the usefulness of humanitarian aid as a foreign policy instrument because his administration is constantly reducing the foreign aid budget.”**
Naturally, Moscow’s actions have surprised the American public, given that, as The New York Times pointed out, it’s usually the U.S. that helps others, not the other way around. In doing so, the publication cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who has said that “Moscow hopes that, when the time comes, the United States will also be able to provide Russia with medical support if necessary” and that “when offering assistance to U.S. colleagues, the president (Putin) assumes that when U.S. manufacturers of medical equipment and materials gain momentum, they will also be able to reciprocate if necessary.”
In other words, Russia is not just prepared to help others, but is also agreeing to accept help from others. This clearly shows that Moscow’s actions are not motivated by “propaganda.” This is about establishing constructive cooperation. What do we have that we can share with the Americans in the face of a common enemy that disregards borders and political disagreements? But, as it turns out, there are some people who are prepared to cut off their nose to spite their face. It’s understandable that Trump’s opponents in his own country criticize him after he delivers campaign speeches. But what are those who are trying to discredit Trump in Poland trying to achieve?
The ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland is now being forced to act in today’s aggressive information environment. Media attacks have skyrocketed on party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is accused of having “dictatorial tendencies” as a result of his wish to proceed with the presidential election on the designated date of May 10. There are other complaints as well. People have started asking the government some unpleasant questions: Is it worth signing a contract for the purchase of American F-35 fighter jets in the current precarious situation? Wouldn’t it be better to spend the currency reserves on other things in Poland? In the given situation, it is better for Warsaw not to create additional “fronts” in the challenge against the Trump administration by calling the Law and Justice Party’s original stake in Washington into question. At the end of the day, we can’t rule out the possibility that Poland will need to turn to the Americans for help if it can no longer cope with the spread of the epidemic and its repercussions for the Polish economy. But those who, according to Roman Dmovski’s observation, hate Russia more than they love Poland, either don’t understand, or don’t want to understand this. Therefore, they are prepared to kick Moscow and Putin, even if it ricochets off Trump.
The pandemic is weakening the country and its people. In such times, even the opposition needs to show some responsibility and work together with the government to cement all the strengths of the community in aid of beating the disease. In Poland’s case, it is sometimes hard to understand not just the actions of Law and Justice’s critics, but those of the ruling party itself. What position is Law and Justice taking? Is it hoping to continue leading a virtual propaganda war having failed to realize just how much the political climate has changed, while world leaders establish a dialogue with each other? If so, then Poland is risking being left behind when others decide they don’t want to come to its assistance.
*Editor’s note: The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11.
**Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, these quoted remarks could not be independently verified.
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