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Poland Will Take Revenge on Europe

The bid by Poland's de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, to derail Donald Tusk's reelection as European Council President has ended in a humiliating defeat. We can now expect the Polish government to lash out at the EU, heedless of the geopolitical or economic consequences.

WARSAW – Until his recent bungled attempt to block Donald Tusk’s reelection as European Council President, Poland’s de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, may have appeared to many European Union leaders to be a politician in the vein of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or some Western populist. But that is far from the case. And now Europe has gotten a taste of Polish political culture, which has long revolved around attempting to restrain a madman. This is what Aleksander Kwaśniewski did as president, and it is what occupied Tusk when he was prime minister. Now this task falls to the Polish opposition – and to Europe.

What happened in Brussels was not part of any larger plan. Kaczyński’s attempt to undermine Tusk benefited no one, neither Poland nor the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which Kaczyński chairs. That is not surprising, because Kaczyński represents the antithesis of pragmatism, which he views as a hallmark of betrayal and weakness. Unlike Orbán, his partner in “illiberalism,” Kaczyński is a paranoid fanatic, not merely a cynical opportunist.

There is little to be gained by trying to decipher Kaczyński’s plans, goals, statecraft, or ideology. He is not an egoist; in Freudian terms, he is pure id, overwhelmed by the death drive. His modus operandi is to attack his opponents, wait for them to hit back or mount resistance, and then retaliate with full force. And, as always, his views, allies, and short-term objectives are inconstant, because they ultimately matter little to him.

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