Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced recently that his country will “no longer transfer [older] weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” prompting a chorus of criticisms.
These critics seem to have already forgotten the $4.5 billion of military, financial and humanitarian aid Poland has given Ukraine since early last year, and that Warsaw has provided sanctuary for 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees since the war began.
Regardless, Poland shouldn’t have to justify its decision, especially given its history with Russia and proximity to this threat. The primary duty of every government is to ensure the safety and well-being of its own citizens—a truth that should also inform the upcoming debate over yet another supplemental budget request for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress.
For context, not everything has changed. Polish officials have clarified that previously agreed-upon deliveries of ammunition and weaponry will go on as scheduled and that Poland will continue to facilitate weapons transfers to Ukraine from other nations.
That hasn’t stopped a slew of negative press. Many articles insinuate or even accuse the Polish government of stopping weapons shipments in retaliation for Ukraine threatening to sue Poland over a grain import dispute. (To its credit, the Pentagon says this is a sovereign decision for the Polish government to make.)
It hasn’t helped that Ukraine has repeatedly attacked Poland over trade in international forums and threatened to sue its neighbor in the World Trade Organization. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy even seemed to insinuate that Poland was intentionally helping Russia with its grain policies.
The truth is, Poland has sent so much of its older military inventory to Ukraine that it doesn’t have much more to give without jeopardizing its own readiness.
Poland has reiterated its long-standing support for Ukraine, which will continue, albeit now with some limitations. But any objective observer would agree that Poland is the last country anyone should accuse of being insufficiently pro-Ukraine.
The U.S. is in a similar predicament. It’s been exhausting its supplies, and it needs to prioritize expenditures in a challenging fiscal environment. Many have forgotten that the greatest threat to American interests is in the Indo-Pacific and the effort most critical to deterring this threat is the support of Taiwan. U.S. weapons inventories are insufficient to meet the requirements of both Ukraine and Taiwan, and every Patriot battery or Stinger sent to Ukraine is one not sent to Taiwan.
The recent $6 billion accounting error makes it hard to give an exact figure, but the U.S. has sent at least $113 billion of military and financial aid to Ukraine. Incidentally, that $6 billion error by the Pentagon didn’t give the public any confidence that the Ukraine funds are being well spent.
The United States is both an Atlantic and Pacific power. It has to be as mindful of Asian security as it is of European security—arguably more so, given the looming threat of China. At present, the only country that can truly threaten American security is in Asia, not Europe, which means that it is a strategic imperative that American efforts be concentrated on the Indo-Pacific.
There are plenty of wealthy Western European countries that could do much more in Ukraine if they were so inclined, freeing the United States to focus on China. It should not be impossible for the European members of NATO to defeat Russia, as Russia’s economy is a mere fraction of Europe’s. Yet most of Europe still doesn’t meet the 2% of gross domestic product defense spending threshold that NATO members all agreed to almost a decade ago.
It is, therefore, more than a little unfair to direct criticism over insufficient support for Ukraine at Poland—let alone the United States. Poland meets the spending threshold for NATO, has been contributing more to the efforts in Ukraine than many far richer countries, and is already budgeting for building one of the most capable militaries in Europe by the end of this decade.
Supporters of increased weapons shipments to Ukraine have plenty of NATO governments they could criticize. Washington or Warsaw aren’t among them.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times