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Poland Renews Alliance With Orban — Putin May Be Next

After having announced Poland's rupture with Hungary, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki has reversed course. It is a sign that Poland's ruling conservative government may be ready to bet on an alliance with Moscow.

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during the V4 Summit in Cracow, Poland

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during the V4 Summit in Cracow, Poland

Bartosz Wielinski


WARSAW — Mateusz Morawiecki lasted only a month without Viktor Orban. Now the Prime Minister of Poland is back on the anti-EU war path, back in step with his Hungarian counterpart.

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Whatever integrity Morawiecki may have had got lost "somewhere in his contacts with Moscow." This is what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said about the pro-Russian prime minister of Hungary a few months ago. Orban, despite Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine, maintained economic ties with Moscow, resisted European Union sanctions, and refused to provide support to the invaded state.

Orban justified Vladimir Putin's actions and questioned the veracity of the reported crimes committed by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian cities. On Saturday, he was the only EU leader went to Moscow for the funeral of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It's a clear gesture. Orban is Putin's Trojan horse in the European Union and he does not hide from it.

Call it treason

Just over a month ago, Morawiecki announced that Poland and Hungary had parted ways. It sounded credible. A country that supports a struggling Ukraine as best it can — by sending tanks and howitzers and providing shelter to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees — cannot fraternize with a country that is close to Putin.

Now, however, Morawiecki has apparently changed his mind, announcing in the pages of the weekly magazine funded by the state treasury, that he is returning to cooperation with Orban.

Orban is Putin's Trojan horse in the European Union and he does not hide from it.

This phrase is not accidental. The European Commission has taken a hard line against Poland and does not want to disburse billions from the reconstruction fund until the conservative PiS party-led government begins to respect the rule of law.

Therefore, in July, PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński announced a tougher course toward the European Union. "The end of playing nice," he said.

Zdzisław Krasnodębski, PiS's chief expert on EU policy, said he considered the West, or European Union, to be a greater threat to Poland than Russia. Such indiscriminate rhetorical attacks on the democratic community during the war against the Russian regime must be called by name: it is treason.

\u200bRussian President Vladimir Putin  with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Kremlin on Feb. 1

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Kremlin on Feb. 1

Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Morawiecki eyes Le Pen

After Russia's attack on Ukraine, the quieting of the anti-European trend in the politics of the PiS lasted only for a while. Kaczynski and Morawiecki are returning to the positions they held in December 2021, when, despite American warnings of an imminent attack, they received Putin in Warsaw with the same honors of any European allies.

It remains to be seen if, after Orban, Morawiecki reaches out to the leader of the French far right, Marine Le Pen, to whom Russia has lent money for election campaigns, or to the leaders of the Italian far right, who are allied with the Kremlin.

Kaczyński is right, the stakes of next year's elections are enormous. The Poles will choose whether they want to stay in the European Union or, together with Orban and other allies of Putin, inevitably drift towards Moscow.

Looking back, the announcement of Prime Minister Morawiecki that Poland and Hungary had parted ways, offered real hope. It had sounded so plausible.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putinism Without Putin? USSR 2.0? Clean Slate? How Kremlin Succession Will Play Out

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, political commentators have consistently returned to the question of Putin's successor. Russia expert Andreas Umland foreshadows a potentially tumultuous transition, resulting in a new power regime. Whether this is more or less democratic than the current Putinist system, is difficult to predict.

A kid holds up a sign with Putin's photograph over the Russian flag

Gathering in Moscow to congratulate Russia's President Vladimir Putin on his birthday.

Andreas Umland


STOCKHOLM — The Kremlin recently hinted that Vladimir Putin may remain as Russia's president until 2030. After the Constitution of the Russian Federation was amended in 2020, he may even extend his rule until 2036.

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However, it seems unlikely that Putin will remain in power for another decade. Too many risks have accumulated recently to count on a long gerontocratic rule for him and his entourage.

The most obvious and immediate risk factor for Putin's rule is the Russian-Ukrainian war. If Russia loses, the legitimacy of Putin and his regime will be threatened and they will likely collapse.

The rapid annexation of Crimea without hostilities in 2014 will ultimately be seen as the apex of his rule. Conversely, a protracted and bloody loss of the peninsula would be its nadir and probable demise.

Additional risk factors for the current Russian regime are related to further external challenges, for example, in the Caucasus. Other potentially dangerous factors for Putin are economic problems and their social consequences, environmental and industrial disasters, and domestic political instability.

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