President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Poland on Wednesday, where he held talks with his counterpart Andrzej Duda and prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
What he brings back is new military aid, Poland’s to lobby for NATO accession, and a solution to the first serious problem in relations with Warsaw since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion more than a year ago.
LIGA.net recaps the visit by the Ukrainian president to Poland and its key results.
Mr Zelenskyy’s official visit to Poland was his first since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Before that, he had had working meetings with Mr Duda twice when travelling through Poland to the United States and Western Europe.
Mr Duda awarded Zelenskyy with the White Eagle, Poland's highest order, held one-on-one and delegation talks with him, and spoke to him at a press conference. The key topics included military assistance, support for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration, economic cooperation, historical memory, rebuilding Ukraine, and a common future.
Among other things, the Polish president promised to seek security guarantees for Ukraine at the NATO summit in July and provide six more MiG-29 aircraft.
"There will be no borders between our peoples – political, economic and, most importantly, historical. But for this to happen, we still need to win. We need to walk a little more side by side," Mr Zelenskyy later wrote about the meeting.
Then, Ukraine’s president took part in a business summit and held talks with Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. He later announced a "very powerful" military aid package from Poland, including the supply of Rosomack armoured personnel carriers, Rak self-propelled mortars, and powerful air defence systems.
In addition, Messrs Zelenskyy and Morawiecki discussed the production of ammunition and weapons.
At the end of the visit, the presidents of Poland and Ukraine spoke from the Royal Castle in Warsaw, where US leader Joe Biden delivered his speech while visiting Poland in February. The castle, believed to be a symbol of Poland's recovery from World War II, is meant to become a symbol of Ukraine's recovery as well.
In his speech, Mr Duda said that there could be no negotiations on the war in Ukraine without the withdrawal of Russian troops. Quoting Ukraine’s famous 19th century poet Taras Shevchenko in the original, he stressed, "There is no time to wait. We are delivering tanks, armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery systems, and finally aircraft as soon as possible. We are setting an example for other countries, and sometimes we are overcoming resistance to the supply of weapons."
In turn, Mr Zelensky quoted the late Pope John Paul II in Polish, spoke about Ukraine’s and Poland’s common future in the EU and NATO, thanked the Polish leadership and people, and called on partners to provide Ukraine with F-16s.
"As in the tank coalition, I believe that your [Poland’s] leadership in the aviation coalition will be manifested," Ukraine’s president stressed.
"We are very happy because Mr Zelensky was in the US, visited Western Europe, and [was] now in Poland," Andrzej Szeptycki, a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Warsaw, tells LIGA.net.
"Poland is the first country in the region that he is visiting. And this is very good. It emphasises Poland's role during the war," he adds.
Despite the symbolism of Mr Zelenskyy’s visit to Poland, weapons are what matters for the survival of Ukraine, Oleksandr Merezhko, a Servant of the People MP who chairs the parliamentary foreign policy committee, tells LIGA.net, adding that he expects increased military support.
"Perhaps the visit is taking place right now because Ukraine is preparing for a counteroffensive, and Poland plays the role of the largest hub for military and technical assistance to Ukraine," he adds.
While Mr Zelenskyy assures that Ukraine’s military will needed the announced aid package now, the Ukrainian Air Force is somewhat sceptical about the promised MiG-29s. It has repeatedly said earlier that the delivery of Soviet aircraft does not translate to victory, as those would strengthen existing capabilities but would not make a difference on the battlefield.
"However, there is the issue of lobbying, [of] how to convince other NATO and EU countries to help Ukraine more. This is where Poland can make a contribution."
Another aspect of such lobbying is political: Mr Merezhko believes that it is important for Ukraine to coordinate actions before the NATO summit in Vilnius in July to ensure Ukraine's accession to the Alliance as soon as possible.
"We believe that in Vilnius, NATO should move to another level of relations with Ukraine," Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a European Solidarity MP who chairs the parliamentary committee on Euro-Atlantic integration, tells LIGA.net.
She believes that the decision of the upcoming NATO summit "will set out Ukraine's future membership more clearly, and not by repeating the decision of the Bucharest Summit, that Ukraine and Georgia will become members through the MAP [Membership Action Plan]."
Mr Duda promised to push for Ukraine’s security guarantees at the meeting of NATO leaders in July, while Mr Moravetskyi said directly that Ukraine's place is in NATO and the EU.
In Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze's opinion, this is the way that Poland shows its readiness to take a leadership role and convince Allied countries that still have doubts about Ukraine.
The third aspect of Polish lobbying is EU integration. As Mr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday, it was primarily due to the uncompromising attitude of Poland and Mr Duda personally that Ukraine managed to become an EU candidate member in June 2022.
Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze says that Ukraine's ambitious, yet achievable goal on this track is to start EU accession negotiations by the end of the year, adding that lobbying from Poland and the Baltic states alone is not enough.
"For our efforts and those of our partners to be successful, we have to implement the recommendations of the European Commission by 110% and 120%. We want none of the sceptics to have any reason to oppose our progress," the MP says.
The Polish president did raise the problem that had occurred recently in relations with Ukraine – Ukrainian grain that had oversupplied the Polish market, leading to lower prices for local producers, farmers' protests, and the resignation of the Polish minister of agriculture on the day of Mr Zelenskyy's visit.
According to Andrzej Szeptycki from the University of Warsaw, this is the first serious problem in Polish-Ukrainian relations since Russia’s full-scale invasion began ih February 2022.
However, Ukraine’s president assured after talks with the Polish PM that concrete solutions had been found and would be implemented in the coming weeks.
Ukraine and Poland have broad plans for cooperation. The shorter-term plans include the delivery of MiG-29s and the announced military aid package, and the medium-term ones, Poland's lobbying for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration, involvement of Polish business in Ukraine reconstruction, and revitalisation of economic cooperation.
Meanwhile, Mr Duda announced the strategic plans – a new agreement on cooperation between Ukraine and Poland, currently in the making.
The current 1992 agreement between Kyiv in Warsaw on "good neighbourliness and cooperation" is similar to those that Poland signed with all its neighbours at the time. But, as Mr Szeptycki explains, in the context of the Ukraine war, it has to be replaced with a more ambitious document.
"This treaty should clearly state the special nature of Polish-Ukrainian relations," the Polish professor is convinced.
"It should also strengthen the role of our countries in this part of Europe. If Western Europe has France and Germany, then our region should have a Polish-Ukrainian tandem. And this, I think, is the main issue."