Washington is in shock. At a time when Joe Biden is building a common Western front to stop Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, Polish authorities are violating the basic values that form the basis of the Polish-American alliance.
Today, it is difficult to decide which of these two initiatives will be considered the greatest diplomatic defeat of free Poland. Is it the “reform” of Zbigniew Ziobro and Jarosław Kaczyński, which provided no tangible benefits for Poland and pushed our country to the margins of the European Union? Or will Lex TVN* be the reason Poland becomes a second-class ally instead of a trusted ally of the U.S. — tolerated because of its geopolitical location, but with whom the U.S. does not share the same beliefs, like Turkey?
Americans were convinced that Lex TVN would not pass through the Sejm since Andrzej Duda signaled in advance that he would veto it. Today, however, they are no longer sure. Why did the Sejm approve the bill without any warning? This move has negative consequences for Poland’s image in Washington. During Mark Brzeziński’s hearing in the Senate, concerns about maintaining media freedom in our country were raised by both Democrats and Republicans. Some senators began to wonder whether perhaps we should go back 30 years and send U.S. aid and other non-governmental organizations to the Vistula River to teach Poles the basics of democracy again. Now this becomes a real possibility.
America cannot afford to withdraw its troops from Poland; the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine is too great for that. However, if the president signs Lex TVN, other, drastic measures are possible, starting with cancelling Ambassador Brzezinski’s arrival in Warsaw.
Poland would also be excluded from having a say in the placement of troops in response to the geopolitical crisis taking place beyond our eastern border. The warning sign occurred when, both before and after the talks with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden consulted with the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy, but not Poland. After two days, however, the president called the prime ministers and presidents of NATO’s eastern flank, the so-called Bucharest Nine. The pretense of including Warsaw in the affairs of Eastern Europe was preserved. If the TVN license had been withdrawn, this would not have happened. Poland’s influence on the fate of Ukraine would be reduced to that of Portugal or Ireland today.
But by forcing Lex TVN, the Polish authorities are doing the most damage not to our country, but to the Ukrainians. At a time when their future, perhaps for generations, is unknown, with this movement, Poland shows us that its priorities lie elsewhere. They will remember this for a long time in Kyiv.
*Editor’s Note: Lex TVN is a law amending the Polish Broadcasting Act, widely viewed as an attempt to interfere with the reporting of the TVN television station, which has been critical of the ruling Law and Justice Party. The lower house of the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, passed the law on Dec. 18, 2021, overruling the Senate’s veto, but it was vetoed by Duda on Dec. 27, 2021.