Russiagate in Poland
Russia has long sought to install pro-Kremlin politicians at the highest levels of power in Central and Eastern Europe. And there is now evidence to suggest that Russian military intelligence agencies are wielding influence in Poland’s Ministry of Defense.
WARSAW – While many Americans remain transfixed by investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, Poles are learning that their country may have served as a testing ground for Russia’s efforts. Russia has long sought to install pro-Kremlin politicians at the highest levels of power in Central and Eastern Europe. And there is now evidence suggesting that Russian military intelligence agencies are wielding influence in Poland’s Ministry of Defense.
In 2014, when Poland was governed by Civic Platform (PO), it was the only country in Europe that had successfully staved off recession in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. During the PO government’s eight years in power, Poland’s GDP grew by almost 25%, while unemployment and the budget deficit fell by almost half. Despite this strong performance, Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party resoundingly defeated PO in Poland’s 2015 parliamentary elections.
To understand why, we need to go back to 2013, when Marek Falenta, a shady Polish businessman, hired two waiters to record private conversations in a restaurant frequented by politicians. These secret recordings fueled a scandal that forced almost all of the PO’s leadership out of government. Among those who resigned was Marshal of the Sejm Radek Sikorski, the co-author of a European Union initiative designed to strengthen the resilience of certain Eastern European and Eurasian countries to Russian pressure.