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Existential threats: the leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party, Jarosław Kaczyński, speaks to supporters during the 2019 election count © Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Poland’s authoritarian turn could destroy its relationship with the west

Centuries of history have taught Poland to be wary of Russia—its government ignores the past as its peril

In the spring of 2018, I travelled from Warsaw to the town of Montrose, on the east coast of Scotland, to meet a fringe Polish politician who has dedicated his life to overturning Europe’s post-1989 political settlement.

A native of the southeastern Polish city of Lublin, he was the deputy leader of an overtly pro-Russian marginal political party calling for a radical re-orientation in Polish foreign policy. Describing itself as “the first non-American political party in Poland,” it was anti-capitalist, anti-Nato and anti-EU, and had ties both to the global extreme far-right and to foreign pro-Russian actors, including the Donbass rebels in eastern Ukraine and proxies for the Assad regime in Syria. This politician (who in this piece I need to keep anonymous) had moved to Scotland after his party’s leader was detained by Polish security services on suspicion of espionage on behalf of Russia and China. A…

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