President Biden's visit to Warsaw coincides with a high-stakes election year for Poland. The ruling camp sees this as a huge opportunity to convince its electorate that a Poland led by PiS has finally "risen from its knees" to become an important actor in world politics and a military power to be reckoned with.
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Biden’s two-day visit to Poland was initially expected to begin with his arrival on Tuesday, February 21. However, the US President made a surprise appearance in Kyiv on Monday morning, reportedly traveling there overnight by train from the Polish border.

After his return from Ukraine, on Tuesday afternoon, the US President is expected to deliver a speech in Warsaw. Much suggests the address could be of historical importance, as it is scheduled to take place almost exactly one year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and only a few hours after President Vladimir Putin of Russia delivers his own speech in Moscow. Speculating about the significance of Biden’s public appearance in Warsaw, political pundits already compare it to John F. Kennedy's 1963 address in West Berlin, where he outlined his vision of the United States as the leader of the free world against the totalitarian threat from the East.

The agenda for Biden’s stay in Poland also includes a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda and an extraordinary NATO summit with leaders of the "Bucharest Nine" (countries on NATO’s eastern flank).

PiS has high hopes for Biden’s visit

President Biden's visit to Warsaw coincides with a high-stakes election year for Poland. While the parliamentary elections are still a long way off and the exact date remains to be determined, a brutal campaign has been underway already since last fall. During his previous Poland trip last March - when the US President spoke at the Royal Castle in Warsaw about the shared Western values such as freedom, media independence and transparency, the citizen's right to vote, and the rule of law – propaganda channels controlled by Poland’s ruling camp portrayed the mere fact of Biden’s visit as a sign of recognition that Poland is a fully democratic and law-abiding country.

And indeed, in a recent interview for TOK FM radio, the chairman of the Justice Committee, PiS MP Marek Ast, said that the current visit of President Biden would also be a testimony that Poland governed by PiS is a country guided by the rule of law. In another radio broadcast, PiS MP Jarosław Sellin said that the visit proves Poland’s position as the second (after Britain) most important US ally in Europe. A government-friendly weekly, in turn, featured a commentary arguing that the Biden administration has close ties with the ruling Law and Justice party, and that "the opposition's takeover could disrupt this harmonious cooperation, not least because of its close cooperation with the European Union". To make it appear more credible, this line of argument was associated with an "anonymous opposition politician".

Any form of praise from President Biden will be crucial, especially considering Prime Minister Morawiecki's failed "compromise" meant to unlock the massive EU funds from the post-pandemic National Recovery and Resilience plan. The ruling camp sees this as a huge opportunity to convince the electorate that a Poland led by PiS has finally "risen from its knees" to become an important actor in world politics and a military superpower to be reckoned with.

Poland as the unofficial leader of Central-Eastern Europe

Even if the success of the Law and Justice party and the entire ruling camp is in his interest (he is a part of it, after all), President Andrzej Duda seems to be playing a slightly different game. He hopes to make Poland the informal leader of Central and Eastern Europe, positioning himself as a respected leader and a personal guarantor of serious relations with the United States.

PiS probably does not want to remember that it was Andrzej Duda who fixed the seriously damaged Poland-US relations by vetoing "lex TVN", a law meant to expropriate the TV station’s American owners. After PM Morawiecki's meetings with Europe’s right wing populist leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, when the US was wondering whether Poland would follow in Viktor Orbán's pro-Russian footsteps, it was President Duda who first declared in a meeting with reporters that "as long as he is in office, he will not close the borders to Ukrainian refugees" and was the first to declare full support for the struggling Ukraine.

During his previous visit to Poland, President Biden was not particularly eager to have a separate meeting with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. At the last minute, the PM squeezed his way into Biden’s agenda, giving POTUS (together with Warsaw’s liberal Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski) a tour of the National Stadium, where Ukrainian refugees have been housed. Since then, Morawiecki's active support for Ukraine has earned him more trust from the US. At the same time, however, it will be difficult for President Andrzej Duda to play the role of a full-fledged political leader when the Law and Justice party government displays anti-German and anti-European sentiments, and PiS Deputy Chairman Antoni Macierewicz speaks on Polish Radio about the Germany-Russia-China geopolitical axis in the event of Ukraine's collapse.

That's why ahead of President Joe Biden's visit, President Duda embarked on a political tour - through NATO Headquarters, Brussels, London, and Munich - in which, during multiple meetings with European leaders, he wanted to show that he is the actual creator of Poland's eastern foreign policy. Andrzej Duda has been reiterating in recent days that the only division that currently exists in the context of the war in Ukraine is the division between Western civilization and the so-called "Russkiy mir" (Russian world). Such a vision, in turn, does not leave much room for the ruling party's anti-European and anti-German policies.


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