Perception of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Germany and in Poland – an evaluation

For free

In Poland, Ukraine has been discussed widely over a number of years, and has been one of the most important topics in the context of foreign policy. In Germany, the situation has been different. There have been periods of increased interest in Ukraine, particularly with respect to the Orange Revolution and Yulia Tymoshenko’s incarceration, but it is only since the Maidan movement in the autumn of 2013 and, especially, since the annexation of Crimea and the Russian intervention in Donbass in the spring of 2014, that Ukraine has become a constant feature of German public debate.

In this context, the report commissioned and published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation presents discourse tendencies reflecting the wide diversity of opinions and evaluations with regard to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, possible solutions and respective roles of the both EU countries.

Grzegorz Gromadzki focuses on three dimensions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict corresponding to the three layers of the conflict discourse in Germany and Poland: a) violation of international law by Russia; b) armed conflict in Donbas; c) the future of Ukraine. Author compares how the perception of Ukraine created by the Russian propaganda was commented in the Polish and German discourse.

Accordig to Gromadzki, there is a consensus in Poland and Germany that two ‘tools’ can be identified which may stop Russia’s actions against Ukraine and the violation of international law: economic sanctions and helping Ukraine implement reforms. 

"Taking the view of the EU as a whole, Germany and Poland are in the same team, which has not been necessarily the case so far when it comes to their policies towards Russia. The prevailing approach towards Russia is based on realism. As a result, the stereotypes of the Germans as a pro-Russian force and the Poles as anti-Russian ‘hawks’ are (partially) being challenged", he emphasizes.

Nonetheless, the author stresses that Germany and Poland’s views on Russia, similar as they may be, are attributable to different reasons, "Germany objects to Russia violating the rules, and fears that the European security architecture is at threat. Poland is primarily afraid of Russian aggression, including military action which could go beyond Ukraine. This is why Germany and Poland are divided on supplying weapons to Ukraine and, particularly, on stationing NATO bases on its (NATO’s) eastern flank, including on Polish territory".

The summary states that despite a similar perception of Ukraine and the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Germany and in Poland, there are still major discrepancies between the two concerning the assessment of Ukraine’s importance. "In Germany, the subject of Ukraine is raised predominantly in the context of the EU/NATO-Russia conflict over the European security architecture. In Poland, Ukraine is given more recognition. The Poles believe the existence of Ukraine as an independent and democratic state is a fundamental factor ensuring national security of Poland", he concludes.

Grzegorz Gromadzki – expert in the Batory Foundation. He has been working for International Department of Gazeta Wyborcza and The Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW). His field of interest and research are Eastern Europe and European Union. Author of numerous publications, including projects supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation:

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Product details
Date of Publication
Heinrich Böll Foundation
Language of publication