Clues From Views: Russia’s National Security Chief Says Poland Preparing to Seize Land in Ukraine, Points Finger at ‘Selfish’ West

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(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – RM Staff – June 2, 2022)

This post is part of a new “Clues from Russian Views” series in our blog and analysis sections. In it, we share what newsmakers in/from Russia are saying about Russia-related issues that impact key U.S. national interests so that RM readers can glean clues about their thinking and/or messaging.The words in the news: This week, the powerful secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said that Poland is poised to seize Ukrainian land—part of the West’s pursuit of its “selfish interests” in the region. He kept the wording vague: “By all appearances, Poland is already taking actions related to the seizure of western Ukrainian territories,” Patrushev—known as a key player in President Vladimir Putin’s “war cabinet”—was quoted by Interfax as saying May 31. This isn’t the first time such claims have been made by senior Russian officials. In late April, for instance, foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin, another Kremlin insider, said that Warsaw and Washington were plotting to restore Polish control over western Ukraine, a claim Poland denied as “lies” meant to “foster distrust between Ukraine and Poland.” In rekindling the allegation earlier this week, Patrushev reportedly said that “the so-called Western partners of the Kyiv1 regime” want to take “advantage of the current situation in [their own] selfish interests and have special plans for Ukrainian lands.”

From Ukraine to inflation to COVID, the West is to blame: Patrushev’s comments fit into his steady portrayal of an “aggressive” U.S.-led West bent on destroying Russia. And they build on his recent claims about other nefarious Western plots—from enriching an “Anglo-Saxon” elite by exploiting the world’s toiling masses to “some experts’” belief that COVID-19 was created in “the Pentagon’s laboratories” (with help from big pharma and funding from “the Clintons, Rockefellers, Soros and Biden”). Patrushev made both claims in an interview published May 24 in the popular Argumenty i Fakty weekly. “The Anglo-Saxons’ style hasn’t changed for centuries,” he was quoted as saying. Under the pretense of “fighting for human rights, freedom and democracy, they are actually realizing the ‘golden billion’ doctrine [Editor’s note: conspiracy theory that gained traction in Russia in the 1990s], which assumes that a limited number of people can prosper in this world. Everyone else’s lot … is to break [their] backs” for the sake of the chosen few, Patrushev reportedly said. Rather than attribute today’s high prices for fuel and food to Moscow’s war in Ukraine and its economic fallout, Patrushev blames Western greed: “So that a handful of magnates in London’s City and on Wall Street can increase their wealth, the governments of the U.S. and England, controlled by big capital, are creating a global economic crisis, dooming millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to hunger, restricting their access to grain, fertilizer and energy supplies.” (Patrushev neither presented evidence for the allegation nor addressed the fact that inflation and soaring energy costs pose stark political challenges for both Washington and London.) In April, Patrushev claimed that it is the West’s policies that will lead to “Ukraine’s disintegration into several states”; he didn’t mention Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea or its support for the eight-year-old separatist warfare in eastern Ukraine.

What is happening around the Polish-Ukrainian border? Patrushev’s claim about Warsaw’s intentions toward its neighbor came after Polish President Andrzej Duda told lawmakers in Kyiv that “the Polish-Ukrainian border should unite, not divide,” and flagged three new bilateral initiatives: a proposed “new Polish-Ukrainian treaty on good neighborliness”; “a high–speed railway linking Kyiv with Warsaw” (to be built jointly); and joint customs control on the border, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed as “revolutionary.” Poland, Duda said in his May 22 speech before Ukraine’s parliament, “has opened its borders for 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees and became home to more than 2 million” fleeing Moscow’s invasion. Both the rail link and the customs checkpoint are meant to ease the flow of people and goods. Of particular concern are the millions of tons of Ukrainian grain blocked from export by the war, posing a risk to global food security—a topic Duda has raised both at Davos and during a recent visit to Egypt, one of the countries that will be hit hardest by the grain shortages.

Footnotes:

  1. Russia Matters uses AP style, which switched from the spelling “Kiev” to “Kyiv” in 2019; we have stuck to that convention here, while fully acknowledging that its political implication of Ukraine’s right to self-determination runs counter to Patrushev’s position.

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