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'Better late than never': Polish PM applauds West for sending tanks to Ukraine


Canada is joining several other allied nations in sending tanks to bolster Ukraine’s forces in its continuing struggle with Russia, a move that is welcome news to Poland, a country which has been vocal in the need for Western allies to send more support to Ukraine.

Germany agreed earlier this week after a series of talks to allow Poland to send some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. On Wednesday, Germany and the United States announced that they would also be sending battle tanks to Ukraine, marking the first stage of a coordinated effort to provide more significant weapons to Ukraine.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told CTV News Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos in an exclusive conversation on CTV’s Power Play that he believes defending Ukraine’s right to remain a free and sovereign nation is imperative in preventing further aggression by Russia.

“Russia's weapon is fear,” he said Thursday. “Our weapon should be and has to be solidarity.”

The full conversation is below and has been edited for clarity. The interview was taped before Canada's announcement that it would be sending tanks to Ukraine.

Vassy Kapelos: I wanted to start off on the subject of battle tanks and specifically Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine. Are you, Prime Minister, surprised at how long it took Germany to give countries like yours the green light to export those tanks?

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: It took quite a while, but I'm very glad that finally we were able to convince our allies and partners from Western Europe that they should be much more active in supporting Ukraine. Poland and Canada, we were very active from day one when the war started, but it's very important that this is a coordinated effort of all of us. So yes, I am glad. I would say it's better late than never. And I am now organizing, or I tried to organize, several other countries to join this -- let's call it a coalition of Leopard 2 countries -- to be delivered to Ukraine.

Kapelos: Is Canada among the countries you are hoping join that coalition, sir?

Morawiecki: I hope so. I know Canada is quite active in supporting Ukraine. I know there's quite a population of Ukrainians (living) in Canada. And it's very important that the free world is in full solidarity supporting Ukraine. I also heard that Prime Minister Trudeau decided to dedicate some 200 armored vehicles. And this is very important because the war is of such a nature in Ukraine that such vehicles are badly needed. This is exactly what President Zelenskyy was telling me several weeks ago. But also on top of armored vehicles, modern tanks are very important, extremely important on this battlefield in Ukraine. So I do hope that Canada is going to be even more generous in Canadian supplies for Ukraine.

Kapelos: You spoke a minute ago about the efforts to convince allies, for example, in Western Europe, to also follow Poland's lead and be willing to send some of their tanks. What do you think has been the key driver of being able to convince them to do so, how have you been able to do so?

Morawiecki: Well, first of all, we try to lead by example. Poland sent 250 tanks as the first country half a year ago or even more than that. Right now, we are ready to send 60 of our modernized tanks, 30 of them PT-91. And on top of those tanks, 14 tanks, Leopard 2 tanks, from in our possession. And we have said to our partners in Western Europe how many tanks we've already delivered, and I have quoted President Zelenskyy (to explain) how important it is in in this kind of war to have modern tanks. Russians have several thousands, or some say even more than 15,000, of the tanks in their stores.

And if we don't want Ukraine to to be defeated, we have to be very much open and brave in supporting Ukraine. These were the arguments and also if Ukraine, God forbid, fails in defending their sovereignty and freedom, it would mean only the first step in the Kremlin's mad strategy to rebuild the Russian Empire from the past. And I think if Europe wants to have stable and long term growth, stability and development in a peaceful way, we have to fend off all those barbaric attacks by the Russians. These were also the arguments which I believe were important for Chancellor Scholz, for President Macron, and our other allies in Western Europe.

Kapelos: As you were making those arguments, Chancellor Scholz was also making some explanations as to why he was hesitant, and in particular, he was kind of focusing on the possibility that sending these tanks would escalate things further with Russia and would provoke Putin further. We've seen this morning during the rush hour in Ukraine, Russia aimed a number of missiles at Ukraine and also continued to attack electrical infrastructure. Does that underscore what Chancellor Scholz was saying? Is it true that this does further provoke Putin, and if so, your reaction to that.

Morawiecki: No, Russia's weapon is fear. Our weapon should be and has to be solidarity. Putin behaves like an actor from an old geopolitical theater. He's like Nero, ready to set Rome on fire just to carry out his objectives. And his main, major objective is to reestablish the Russian Empire. He took the worst from the demons of the 20th century, like nationalism, colonialism, and all sorts of features from (the) totalitarian toolkit, and we have to be very strong in our reply, because his success means the defeat of not only Ukraine, (but) the defeat of the free world.

And as I said, if we want to develop in a peaceful environment, we have to stay strong, stay together, and united, because it is the only way how we can prevent further attacks by the Russians. You probably remember how they were aggressive since the beginning of 2008, invading Georgia. They invaded Georgia during the month of August 2008, and then they attacked Ukraine in 2014, and then 2022. So they have insatiable appetite for other countries, they are not behaving like normal democratic state, not at all, actually, the opposite is the case. And this is why the Eastern Flank of NATO should be defended. And thank you, for Canadian troops to be together hand in hand with Polish troops in Latvia, for instance, in the format of enhanced forward presence of NATO. We have to stay strong, defending Ukraine.

Kapelos: Just on that point, a final question for you. Prime Minister, was this back and forth about tanks, do you think, the closest or the most that that sense of unity was at risk? Because the Allies have been very unified until the past few weeks when we heard Germany kind of step outside. Ultimately, as you pointed out, they did decide to greenlight the export of those tanks, and they decided to stand with their allies, but has this back and forth posed the greatest risk to that sense of unity?

Morawiecki: I do not want to be too much criticizing Germany because I'm very happy and grateful to the German government that they finally took this very right decision. That's point No. 1. No. 2, many taboos from the past are now overcome. The delivery of heavy modern armored vehicles was not possible just several months ago. Patriot Aircraft systems, anit-aircraft, anti-missile systems was not to be able to be delivered to Ukraine either. And here we are in yet another moment of history of this war, when Leopard 2 tanks, very modern tanks, Abrams tanks from the United States, are going to be delivered.

The soldiers of Ukraine are going to be trained. And this is why I'm a strong believer that Ukraine is going to survive as a sovereign and free nation. They are brave hearts, they fight with lion hearts, but we have to keep deliveries of the modern supplies because we know how big a behemoth type of superpower attacked Ukraine on the 24th of February last year. So it's our duty, our responsibility to support Ukraine in those very dark times. Top Stories

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