Reflections of German-Polish Rivalry on European Geopolitics

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It can be argued that one of Germany’s biggest rivals in Europe is Poland. Germany is the most powerful country in the European Union (EU). Poland, on the other hand, aims to become a power center in Europe. The geopolitical goals of the two countries inevitably lead to a struggle for influence in Europe.

On the other hand, the most fundamental factor shaping Poland’s attitude towards Germany is the country’s historical memory. The occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War has an important place in the national memory of the Polish people.

In this context, on September 1, 2022, Poland demanded 1.3 trillion dollars in war reparations from Germany, citing war crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is noteworthy that Poland did not act alone on the issue of war reparations against Germany. In this regard, Warsaw aims to put pressure on Berlin by acting together with Athens.[1]

As can be understood, there are serious disputes between Germany and Poland stemming from the past. It can be stated that one dimension of the current rivalry between the parties is shaped by this problem.

On the other hand, Poland was one of the countries that reacted most harshly to Germany’s policy towards Russia before the Russo-Ukrainian War. Therefore, Polish leaders made accusatory statements against Berlin after Moscow’s intervention in Kiev.

As one might expect, the rivalry between Germany and Poland has come to light especially in the aftermath of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Poland is one of the main countries opposed to the domination of Europe by Germany. In this context, on December 4, 2022, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, President of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland, harshly criticized German “dominance” in Europe, saying that his country wanted to use peaceful means to implement plans that it had once tried to implement militarily.[2]

These statements are extremely important in terms of reflecting the attitude of the decision-making mechanism in Poland towards Germany. Therefore, the rulers in power in Poland have a negative attitude towards Germany.

On the other hand, Poland made the most decisive moves in Germany’s supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. In this context, on January 11, 2023, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that his country would send German-made Leopard-2 tanks to the Kiev administration.[3]

Nevertheless, Warsaw’s move put serious pressure on Berlin. Until then, Germany had agreed to send old Marder armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, but refrained from sending Leopard-2 tanks. This was because Germany was afraid of confrontation with Russia and was careful not to send heavy weapons that could affect the course of the war. However, Poland has not hesitated to send weapons that could change the course of the war in Ukraine. Poland’s statements that it could send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if necessary, even without Germany’s approval, put great pressure on Berlin. In the end, Germany agreed to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

In a sense, Poland killed two birds with one stone when Germany decided to send these tanks to Ukraine. Thus, Poland was instrumental in further increasing the tensions between Russia and Germany, two of its greatest enemies in history. Accordingly, the main strategy of the Warsaw administration is for Moscow and Berlin to drain each other’s energy.

Moreover, it should be noted that Poland’s biggest ally in Europe is the UK. Considering that Poland aims to become a power center in Europe, its partnership with the UK gains importance. The London administration’s geopolitical objectives in Europe are based on preventing the Russia-Germany rapprochement. In this context, Poland stands out as a critical partner for the UK to realize this goal. This is because Poland is one of the rare states in Europe that is both anti-German and anti-Russian.

In addition to all these, on March 21, 2023, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivered a speech at Heidelberg University in Germany. Morawiecki stated that Europe could fall into the mistakes of the past if nations within the EU try to dominate other nations. Moreover, the Polish Prime Minister pointed out that “pro-Europeanism” could not be achieved through further centralization but through support for EU enlargement. Moreover, Morawiecki reiterated Poland’s demand for reparations from Germany for the Second World War.[4]

In short, Warsaw opposes the centralization of the EU. This is because Poland believes that this would increase Germany’s influence in the EU countries. It is also clear that Poland will continue to pressure Germany on the issue of war reparations.

On 24 March 2023, Morawiecki emphasized that Germany was not doing enough to support Ukraine. The Polish Prime Minister said that Germany should give more arms, ammunition and money to Ukraine because Berlin is by far the richest and largest country in the EU. In other words, Morawiecki accused Germany of “not being as generous as expected”. Moreover, Morawiecki underlined that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members should allocate 3% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defense spending. [5]   Indeed, Poland announced in February 2023 that it would allocate 4% of its GDP to defense in 2023.[6]

In sum, Poland is pursuing a policy of putting pressure on Germany while effectively using the NATO factor. Therefore, Morawiecki’s statements aim to put Germany, which has long insisted on increasing its defense spending to 2% of its GDP, in a difficult situation. In addition, the Warsaw administration is also trying to put Germany under pressure by continuing its attempts to get Berlin, the most economically powerful member of the EU, to provide more arms and financial aid to Kiev.

As a result, the rivalry between Berlin and Warsaw has become even more pronounced with the war in Ukraine. It is foreseeable that relations between the two sides will remain tense and Poland will continue its policy of seeking opportunities to put pressure on Germany, such as with the Leopard 2 tanks.

[1] Cemal Ege Özkan, “Almanya-Polonya-Yunanistan Üçgeninde Savaş Tazminatı Sorunu”, ANKASAM,, (Date of Accession: 28.03.2023).

[2] “Poland’s Kaczynski Slams Germany’s ‘Dominance’ in Europe”, DW,, (Date of Accession: 28.03.2023).

[3] “UK and Poland Confirm Plans to Send Modern Heavy Tanks to Ukraine”, Financial Times,, (Date of Accession: 28.03.2023).

[4] Jonathan Packroff, “Polish PM Opposes an EU Federation, Slams Brussels”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 28.03.2023).

[5] Lili Bayer-Jacopo Barigazzi, “Not as Generous: Polish Leader Hits Germany Over Ukraine Support”, Politico,, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.03.2023).

[6] “Poland to Rise Defense Spending to Over 4 Pct GDP in 2023: President”, TVP World,, (Date of Accession: 28.03.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.