On Monday, Civic Coalition leader Donald Tusk was selected to be the new prime minister of Poland after rival efforts were defeated in Parliament. Tusk’s victory follows elections in October that left the right-leaning Law and Justice Party still holding the largest number of seats but lacking the numbers (or allies) to form a new government.
Tusk is a former president of the European Council and strongly supports increasing Poland’s role in the European Union. Over the past eight years of rule by the nationalist Law and Justice Party, Poland has broken away from the EU on issues of freedom of the press and international law. As Reuters reports, that’s resulted in tens of billions of EU funds for Poland being placed on hold. Tusk is expected to move quickly to repair these issues and bring more EU funds into Poland.
The Law and Justice Party attempted several last-minute maneuvers to block Tusk, who was previously prime minister between 2007 and 2014, from returning to power. That included naming a commission reportedly investigating Russian influence-peddling which insisted that Tusk, along with other opposition leaders, should be excluded from government. But this effort and all others failed. Tusk won the prime minister role in a 248-to-201 vote, and will immediately form a new government.
As The Guardian reports, Tusk accepted his new role while saying that he wants to “chase away the darkness … chase away the evil” of outgoing nationalist rule. Not only does Tusk’s election promise a more united EU, it also puts an end to claims that Europe—especially Eastern Europe—was trending inexorably to the right.
Though Poland has been one of the largest contributors to Ukraine’s defense effort when it comes to weapons, the nationalist government was increasingly driving wedges between the two countries. Anti-immigrant rhetoric directed at Ukrainian refugees was a fixture in the fall election, and increasingly, radical nationalists were pushing Poland to reduce cooperation in ways that worried NATO supporters.
Tusk can be expected to not only keep up the military assistance to Ukraine but also be more supportive in assistance to NATO and refugees, and working out trade deals.
Before the fall elections, there were concerns that Poland would continue to drift to the right, with anti-immigrant sentiment moving the country to positions that could generate a greater schism with the EU and NATO. But since those elections, where Tusk’s party along with two others on the center-left took the majority of seats, Poland’s move back into the community of European nations seemed assured.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s congratulations are no doubt sincere. In the short term, the change in Poland’s government is unlikely to have any effect on equipment coming from Poland or on Ukrainian troops training there. In the long term, Tusk is much more likely to work out deals that bring relief to Ukrainian farmers and perhaps an end to roadblocks by Polish truckers.
Tusk’s election also helps to further isolate Hungary’s authoritarian President Viktor Orbán, Speaking of whom, both Zelenskyy and Orbán were in Argentina this week for the inauguration of President Javier Milei. Unlike at most diplomatic occasions, no one thought to see that Zelenskyy and Orbán were seated a kilometer or two apart and they reportedly had an “animated chat.”
The United Kingdom and Norway have jointly launched a new “Maritime Capability Coalition” aimed at beefing up the Ukrainian navy. The focus of this effort revolves around ships designed to remove mines near the Ukrainian coast and provide protection for commercial vessels.
In the near future, a pair of U.K. Royal Navy Sandown Class minehunters will be transferred to the Ukrainian navy as a first step in this plan.
Despite the relatively small changes being seen on the map day by day, the past two weeks have actually brought some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Not only has Ukraine been conducting a counterattack to Russian attempts to close off the Avdiivka salient, but also there has been renewed fighting on the southern front, with Ukraine winning, losing, then partially winning again a cluster of fields southwest of Robotyne.
Just about every day of the past week has brought reports of heavy losses, sometimes on both sides, but almost certainly on the Russian side. Today was no different.
Over the past two days, a lot of those Russian casualties came in a place that had been relatively quiet over the last two weeks: the area around Krynky, east of the Dnipro River.
A combination of mines and FPVs reportedly spelled doom for multiple attempts by Russia to retake the area near Krynky, with one of those assaults involving the loss of at least five armored vehicles.
Additional Russian losses reportedly came in a column of vehicles destroyed near Marinka, and another column lost in an attempt to enter Novomykhailivka, 9 kilometers south of Marina.
In the Avdiivka area, efforts to drive Russia completely from the area around Stepove continue.
Over the weekend, Ukraine managed to push Russia completely back across the rail line in some areas. However, in the woods fronting that rail line and in the easternmost blocks of Stepove, Russian forces have proven harder to dislodge. There had been hopes that Ukrainian forces could move over the tracks and advance toward Krasnohorivka, but there’s no sign of this happening so far.
Meanwhile, Russia has managed to advance to the southeast of the mine-waste pile known as the Terrikon. Russia has taken a block of buildings along the edge of an industrial area and so far seems to be holding on to this position.
As this article was being written, reports emerged that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken from the penal colony he was last reported at. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Last week, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced that he was running for reelection. Not that he needs to run—or that the election means anything.