Return of the Weimar Triangle? Poland Looks for a Fresh Start with France and Germany
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be on the road on February 12, heading first to Paris to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, and then to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Finally, one may say. Despite having been at the wheel of government since mid-December, Tusk has been too entangled in domestic issues to play a proactive role on the international stage. After eight years of PiS-led national conservatism, rolling back state capture in Poland will require political skill. According to a CBOS opinion poll, 37% of Poles still fear that the situation under Tusk will be worse than it was under the previous government.
From Warsaw’s perspective, rebuilding cooperation with key EU countries can improve Polish public opinion, which had shown signs of becoming tired of the previous government’s conflictual relations with partners. If Warsaw-Paris relations have been cold since 2016, temperatures with Berlin were polar. Even though Germany is Poland's leading economic partner, nationalist-conservative elites targeted the country with hostile rhetoric, stirring up historical resentment for electoral advantages.
To heal the damaged relationships with both Paris and Berlin, Tusk will rely on his influential Minister of Foreign Affairs Radek Sikorski. This will be a replay of 2007–2014, when the two held the same positions they hold now. This is an experienced duo seeking a fresh start.
After receiving his French counterpart, Stéphane Séjourné, in Warsaw on January 15, Sikorski visited Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock in Berlin on January 30. The meeting of the three in Paris on Monday will provide an opportunity to revamp and revitalize the Weimar Triangle. The focus of the meeting will be on providing additional impetus to Ukrainian support, with discussions of, among others, common industrial arms projects and future production of artillery munitions.
During their upcoming exchanges, Tusk and Sikorski should clarify their vision of European security architecture. Relying on the American security umbrella has been a natural strategic reflex for Polish leaders, but in light of expected US disengagement, this may need to be rebalanced. Tusk has openly promised to join the German-initiated Sky Shield European air defense system, which will please Berlin but irritate Paris, as the project essentially relies on American and Israeli technology and products.
At the same time, the Polish delegation must play its role as strong advocate for NATO’s eastern flank. The allies in the region feel increasingly pressured by Moscow. Warsaw is on full alert, as intense missile attacks on western Ukraine are ongoing. Tusk and Sikorski will share their concern to obtain guarantees on NATO’s collective defense from their counterparts, and will be eager to plan NATO joint exercises. In the event of a second Trump presidency, Moscow may indeed test Article 5’s effectiveness.
Kyiv will be following Monday’s events with hope. Ten years ago, in 2014, Foreign Ministers Radek Sikorski, Laurent Fabius, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier managed to stop former Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych’s repression of pro-European protests in Kyiv’s Maidan. A decade later, the challenge Russia poses is even more serious.