The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has strongly criticized Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Poland received its western territories thanks to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Morawiecki announced that Warsaw would be summoning the Russian ambassador in response to Putin’s remarks.
During a meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Friday, Putin highlighted that the Soviet Union liberated Poland from Nazi occupation during World War II, and it was thanks to Stalin that Poland “acquired substantial territory in the West” after Germany’s defeat. Putin emphasized that Poland’s western lands were a gift from Stalin.
In reaction to Putin’s statement, Prime Minister Morawiecki labeled Stalin as a “war criminal guilty of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Poles.” He provided further clarification of Poland’s position on Twitter, stating that historical truth is indisputable and confirming that the ambassador of the Russian Federation would be summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The formation of Poland’s modern borders largely occurred in 1945 when it gained a significant portion of Germany’s territory. This included part of Eastern Prussia and most of Pomerania and German Silesia, with the local German population forcibly deported. In return for this land, Poland agreed to cede its eastern territories, including the Lviv, Vilnius, and Brest Regions, to the Soviet Union. These regions, which were captured by Moscow in 1939 during Poland’s defeat by the Nazis, now belong to Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. The territorial changes were approved by the Western allies and the USSR at the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences.
In recent months, senior Russian officials have suggested that Poland intends to take advantage of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev and claim the western part of Ukraine. Putin stated that Warsaw “probably hopes to form a coalition under the NATO umbrella in order to directly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine and to bite off as much [territory] as possible.” However, he also mentioned that if Kiev were to give up or sell something to pay their benefactors in the West, Russia “will not interfere.”
The tension between Poland and Russia stems from differing historical perspectives and territorial claims. Poland sees Stalin as a war criminal responsible for the deaths of many Poles during his rule, while Russia views him as a key figure in its victory over Nazi Germany.
This latest exchange of statements further strains the already challenging relationship between the two countries. It remains to be seen how this diplomatic dispute will affect their future interactions and any possibility of resolving their historical and territorial grievances.