Polish defence minister: ‘Helpless requests’ don’t work with Russia

Antoni Macierewicz [Polish Radio]

“Bon voyage” to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Russia. He should know that Moscow only understands equal partnerships from a position of strength, Polish Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz told euractiv.com in an exclusive interview.

Antoni Macierewicz is the Minister of National Defence for Poland. He previously served as the Minister of Internal Affairs, Head of the Military Counter-intelligence Service, and Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Defence.

Macierewicz spoke to euractiv.com’s Senior Editor, Georgi Gotev.

Is the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw the main reason for your visit to Brussels?

I came at the invitation of the New Direction foundation, of Mr. Tomasz Poręba [MEP and President of New Direction – the Foundation for European Reform] and Professor [Ryszard] Legutko. This is a very important event [the conference “Strengthening Eastern Europe’s flank – prospects for the NATO Warsaw sumit” held on 15 June] and I’m happy to be part of it. But in the last two days, I participated in the meeting of [NATO] ministers of defence, and I have to say this meeting was difficult, and nevertheless very fruitful for Poland.

Difficult in what sense? It’s true that we live in a dangerous world, and from your biography I have seen that you have worked as chief of the military counter-intelligence, so you have seen many things first hand.

Indeed, the world that we are living in today is a very dangerous place, however if you look from the Polish perspective, from the perspective of the Eastern flank and from the perspective of the EU and NATO, because of the Russian aggression, these dangers are growing. However, the difficulty I referred to in the beginning, is not directly connected to this fact. It was a difficult meeting due to the huge number of issues that were on the agenda and that we had to agree on before the NATO summit in Warsaw, which is three weeks from now [8-9 July].

But I will try to portray the dangers of the world we are living in a few short sentences. Two years ago, Russia attacked Ukraine. Many European countries were shocked and didn’t believe this was possible, that a war could be waged in Europe. And then preventive measures were taken, at the Newport NATO summit in Wales two years ago [4-5 September 2014].

At the moment those preventive measures decided on in Wales started being implemented, a second strike came from the south. This was the migration wave and Russia’s intervention in Syria. So Europe and NATO were caught in pliers, from the north and from the south. So everything has changed over the last two years. However, it takes a lot of time to unleash and synchronise the huge potential that NATO has. Psychologically and information-wise, the problem is to understand that the source of these strikes is the same. And we shouldn’t quarrel and dispute which flank is more important. We should defend ourselves commonly against this threat. And that is what we have been able to do today.

I’m not sure I understood. You mean that Russia is also behind the migrant wave?

There is no doubt that Russia’s intervention in Syria doesn’t aim at stabilising the Middle East, and that it contributes to generate this migration wave which is flooding Europe now.  And no matter what the origins were, this is how the situation looks right now.

Mr. Juncker is going tomorrow [16 June] in Moscow, while in some EU capitals there is a fatigue from the sanctions. How about that?

I should say “Bon voyage”. It is always good to talk, talking between people can be beneficial. However, the only kind of discussion that imperialist Russia understands, is the discussion of equal partners from the position of strength, rather than helpless requests. And once more – Bon voyage!

Regarding Russia, Poland is often described as a hawk, together with the Baltic states. Some think that this is because of the historic circumstances, that you are overreacting on Russia. How do you respond to them?

It is not Poland who occupies part of Ukraine. It is not Poland who is saying that Russia and Moscow are at the sights of our missiles. And it is not Poland that is conducting further aggressive actions. All the words and deeds I have just quoted have been expressed by the Russian Federation and by President Vladimir Putin. Of course I understand that Russian are masters of propaganda, actually they are very good as presenting something which is black as white.

But facts are what they are. Russian forces occupy Crimea. Russian forces occupy Lugansk, and Russian forces occupy Donetsk. Three days ago, I spoke to Ukrainian soldiers who came to Poland right from the frontline in Donbas, and they told stories about women and children being killed by Russian forces. So these are the facts. And what we are doing is that we are purely defending ourselves.

Every day and night, in my capacity as minister of defence, I receive information right at my desk about Russian provocations in the Baltic Sea and at our borders. Russian planes and Russian drones cross our borders and they also perform simulated attacks on our ships, and this happens every day. You cannot see it in Brussels, but this is reality in Poland. And this is not happening only in international waters, but in our waters as well.

A simulated attack on a US ship in the Baltics was widely publicised by the US Navy

It was carried against the USS Donald Cook, and because the White House reacted, we all know about this case. But this happens every day and every night with regard to Polish forces.

Has Poland been victim of cyber-attacks from Russia?

Yes, of course. Eight months ago, Russian conducted a cyber-attack against the Polish ministry of defence and stole 10000 telephone numbers of Polish soldiers.

Did they steal your telephone number?

[Laughs ]I was not the minister of defence then. But as a minister, I changed the whole system so something like this is no longer possible.

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