london - Washington said Thursday that Poland remained a close ally of Ukraine, after Warsaw said it would no longer provide Kyiv with weapons amid an escalating dispute over food imports.
At a press briefing Thursday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan played down the dispute.
"When I read the headlines this morning, I was of course concerned and had questions. But I've subsequently seen the Polish government spokesman come out to clarify that in fact Poland's provision of equipment, including things like Polish-manufactured Howitzers, is continuing and that Poland continues to stand behind Ukraine," Sullivan said.
Questioned about his country's support for Kyiv on Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that no new weapons would be sent to Ukraine.
"We are no longer transferring any weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming ourselves with the most modern weapons," he told Poland's Polsat News.
Warsaw later clarified that it was continuing to supply arms and ammunition that were part of previously agreed upon deliveries.
Poland has until now been one of Ukraine's closest allies since Russia's invasion in February 2022. The country has taken in an estimated 1.6 million refugees and has provided Kyiv with significant military support, including German-made Leopard 2 and Soviet-era T-72 tanks, along with MiG-29 fighter jets.
"Poland has been one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine in terms of generating support to give the more risky weapon platforms - pushing the Germans and saying it was going to give tanks to sort of push the Germans and the U.K., and a similar way with fighter jets," said Patrick Bury, a security analyst at Britain's University of Bath.
FILE - A woman holds bread during a farmers protest in Bucharest, Romania, April 7, 2023. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia imposed unilateral bans in September on the import of some Ukrainian foods, saying their own farmers were being undercut.
The timing and tone of Morawiecki's words surprised many of Poland's allies, said Marcin Zaborowski, policy director of the Future of Security Program at GLOBSEC, a Bratislava research group.
"I see a high level of escalation. The statement about stopping to send new arms to Ukraine was, in my opinion, completely unnecessary, and it echoed in a very negative way in the world," Zaborowski told Reuters, adding that Polish elections set for October 15 were exacerbating the tensions.
"What an average Ukrainian citizen would hear is that Poles stop helping. Of course, there is hope that this rhetoric will be reversed after the elections, but some kind of capital of common trust, which has been built in the recent months, will be seriously tarnished."
The dispute began after Poland, Hungary and Slovakia imposed unilateral bans on the import of some Ukrainian food products last week, after temporary European Union restrictions expired.
European states bordering Ukraine have provided a key alternative route to global markets for Ukraine, as Russia's invasion cut off many routes through the Black Sea. However, several neighboring states claimed the Ukrainian imports were not transiting through Europe but were instead being sold on local markets and undercutting their own farmers.
Ukraine immediately lodged a complaint at the World Trade Organization. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told delegates at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that it was "alarming to see how some in Europe ... are helping set the stage for a Moscow actor."
Poland summoned the Ukrainian ambassador following Zelenskyy's comments. Polish President Andrzej Duda likened Ukraine to a drowning man.
"Of course, we have to act in a way to protect ourselves from being harmed by the drowning one, because once the drowning man hurts us, it will not get help from us," Duda told reporters Tuesday.
Both sides appeared to try to de-escalate the dispute Thursday. Ukraine's agriculture minister said he had agreed with his Polish counterpart to work out a solution to the trade dispute. Kyiv also agreed to license its grain exports to Slovakia.
Russia likely sees splits in Western unity, Bury said.
"It's not a good look, and of course that is how Russia will view it. Now the question is, do we give them any more evidence of it, or is that just a line drawn under it?" he told VOA.