Mateusz Morawiecki is prime minister of Poland.
WARSAW — Ten days ago, in excellent company, I visited the besieged city of Kyiv. Although I had traveled beyond the borders of the European Union, I felt I had arrived in the very heart of Europe — a wounded heart, yes, but one that beats with great force.
In Kyiv, there is a battle being waged — not only for the future of Ukraine, but also for the future of the entire Continent. And if Kyiv falls, it will be the end of Europe as we know it.
A month has passed since Russia launched its full-on assault of Ukraine. Since then, the West has imposed four packages of sanctions on Russia — and yet the war continues. The measures are clearly not enough. Much more needs to be done, and quickly.
To those who warn that provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin will lead to World War III, I ask: Did Putin ever need an excuse to violate international law? Did he need one to attack Georgia? Did he need one to occupy Crimea? Did he need one to attack Kyiv?
Such remarks remind me of the words of Winston Churchill, who is reportedly described the decision to appease Adolf Hitler as a choice between war and shame. “They chose shame,” he added. “They will get war too.” The passivity of politicians on the eve of World War II did not stop Hitler; it gave him more room for action. Our task today is to not repeat that same mistake.
The people I talked to while in Kyiv have more courage than the leaders of the world’s largest countries. But they need more than just compassion or statements of solidarity. They need real support.
I know that Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was grateful for our visit with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of my Law and Justice Party. But he and the rest of Ukraine are right to expect far more from us.
In addition to cutting off payments for oil, gas and coal as soon as possible, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have prepared a 10-point plan to support Ukraine and bring an end to the war.
First, we must cut off all Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system. Otherwise, the Russian economy will adapt to the new conditions within a few weeks.
Second, we must put in place a common asylum policy for Russian soldiers who refuse to serve the criminal regime in Moscow.
Third, we must completely stop Russian propaganda in Europe. Freedom of speech does not mean the right to lie.
Fourth, we must block Russian ships from our ports.
Fifth, the same blockade must be put in place for road transport in and out of Russia.
Sixth, we must impose sanctions not only on oligarchs but on their entire business environment.
Seventh, we must suspend visas for all Russian citizens who want to enter the EU. The Russian people must understand that they will bear the consequences of this war. And it is our hope that they will turn their backs on Putin.
Eighth, we must impose sanctions on all members of Putin’s party, United Russia. They know perfectly well what is happening in Ukraine, and their complicity is indisputable.
Ninth, we must put in place a total ban on the export to Russia of technologies that can be used for war.
And tenth, we must exclude Russia from all international organizations. We cannot sit at the same table as criminals.
If this does not stop the war, then we must go further. In Kyiv, we proposed a peacekeeping mission under the aegis of NATO and other international organizations. If we cannot introduce effective sanctions, we have no choice: We must protect the people of Ukraine with our own shields.
If we want to restore peace, Putin needs to know where the red line is — the line he cannot cross. The fact that Russia has a nuclear arsenal cannot be an excuse for passivity. We must be cognizant of this threat, but it cannot hold us back. Otherwise, Putin will only go further.
What will we do if Putin reaches for Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, next? Or if he attacks Vilnius and Warsaw? What if he wants to occupy Helsinki? Will we start taking this threat seriously only when he sends tanks to Berlin? The line must be drawn, and it must be drawn now.
The plan we propose is not only possible, it is necessary. We must find the courage not to turn our backs on Ukraine’s suffering and to face this historic challenge.