*The website of the BILD newspaper is no longer accessible in Russia. The Russian media regulator has blocked access to BILD.de, which like WELT is published by Axel Springer, for readers in Russia. WELT distributes the texts of the BILD colleagues so that readers in Russia can find out about facts beyond the Russian government propaganda.

This article in German.

105 days ago Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, states that are in close proximity to the Kremlin have also been in danger. Including Poland.

In an exclusive interview with BILD, Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke about the tanks that Germany has promised but has not yet delivered, the threat from Moscow and misunderstandings during phone calls to Vladimir Putin.

Mr. President, we are sitting here in the center of Warsaw. How often do you think that Putin could just as well have attacked Poland?

Andrzej Duda: In 2008, when Russia attacked Georgia, the President of Poland said words that sounded vicious then, but today have a sad history. He said: Russian imperialism is being renewed. We see the face of Russia, which we have not seen for decades, but which we know. This is the face of an imperialist state that wants to deprive others of their freedom. And that it must be stopped at any cost. That this is the duty of Europe and the whole world. He was referring to the EU and the heads of state, because today Georgia, tomorrow maybe Ukraine, the day after tomorrow the Baltic countries, and then my country Poland. It was in August 2008 and we have always taken those words very seriously.

How high do you rate the risks?

Andrzej Duda: According to the way the Russians realize their interests in Ukraine, there is no question who is the aggressor. We must do everything to stop imperialist Russia. We must help the Ukrainians in every possible way. We very much hope that Russian imperialism will break its teeth on Ukraine. In the meantime, we will strengthen our positions so much that there will simply be no point in attacking us. The defense of Ukraine, a free, sovereign state in which people make their own decisions, is of fundamental importance to us.

You went to Kyiv twice during the war, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was still not there. When it comes to Ukraine, is Poland showing leadership in Europe that Germany is currently not showing?

Andrzej Duda: I don’t want to judge political leaders when they decide whether or not to go to Kyiv. There are different circumstances, different personalities. I felt that my presence is very important for Ukraine. We Poles understand the situation very well. No one says a word about doing business with Russia, because we can again be threatened with the presence of the Russian army here. This means death, execution, exile to Siberia. We know very well what a potential Russian invasion means. That’s why we can’t let it go that far. We must create in Poland such a military force that we can defend ourselves in the event of an attack. We must all do our best to avoid attack.

What do you think about Germany?

Andrzej Duda: Excuse me, maybe someone in Germany will be offended: this part of the German economy does not give a damn about what is happening with Ukraine, what is happening with Poland. They say: we want to do business, make money. You can do business in Russia, we want to sell our products. We want to buy cheap gas and import oil. Perhaps the German economy does not believe that the Russian army will be able to once again celebrate a major victory in Berlin and occupy part of Germany. We in Poland know that this is possible. And that’s why Business as usual no longer exists for us. And that is why we call on the world and Europe to ensure that there is no more Business as usual with Russia.

There are many complaints about the lack of supplies of German weapons.

Andrzej Duda: Ukraine needs heavy weapons, tanks. These are the needs of Ukraine. I spoke with President Zelensky two days ago. He again asked me about it. We sent tanks, more than 240 tanks that Ukraine can serve. We sent almost 100 pieces of armored vehicles and weapons. Weapons, ammunition, missiles. We sent a total of $2 billion worth of weapons. This is a huge expense, but we understand the need. We appeal to everyone: for example, if someone has the opportunity to send artillery. These weapons are needed to stop the Russian invasion.

Olaf Scholz said during his visit to Lithuania: “No one delivers at the same level as Germany. Germany supplies more than Poland?

Andrzej Duda: Maybe. I dont know. If the Chancellor says so. He probably has the relevant data. I’m asking for help.

Do you believe what he says?

Andrzej Duda: I don’t want to judge the veracity of the chancellor’s words. This can be done by German politicians and the media. Having access to public information. If Germany really helps like that, then I, as a direct neighbor, can only say that I am very grateful to her. They need heavy weapons. First of all, artillery, so that Ukraine can withstand Russian artillery. The answer in terms of heavy weapons and heavy artillery is the only remedy against the Russian offensive.”

In your opinion, is the circular exchange of arms a delaying tactic for Germany?

Andrzej Duda: I repeat: Ukraine needs support. We have handed over most of the weapons to our army. It wasn’t the stock we had in stock. We handed over our tanks and armored vehicles.

You recently accused the German government of breaking their word on a circular arms exchange with Poland.

Andrzej Duda: I was asked what I think about the fact that Germany does not deliver the promised tanks. The information that we expect the most modern weapons, Leopard II tanks, is incorrect. This is not true. It goes without saying for us that for the old Soviet tanks, of which we delivered 240 units to Ukraine, we will receive not the most modern Leopard tanks from Germany. Because we have old versions of Leopard tanks in Poland. With this help, we would like to replenish our reserves. There is an older version of the Leopard. We could take old tanks and modernize them in the future – also with the help of German industry. So we expected to get an older version of the tanks. As far as I know, we haven’t received anything.

Has the German government taken action?

Andrzej Duda: I do not know anything about the fact that we received support from the German side when it came to tanks.

Are you still waiting?

Andrzej Duda: “Yes, of course, we gave away our tanks, and instead of them we now have nothing to replace them. We are currently negotiating new tanks. We signed a contract with the US for 250 new tanks. Our Minister of Defense was in South Korea now to discuss the purchase of lighter South Korean tanks, about 300 pieces. Because we want to equip our army with modern tanks. In addition, it is a matter of several years before the products are delivered to us. If today we had a certain number of old mass-produced German tanks to strengthen our security in the future, we would be very grateful.

Before the German chancellor announced the delivery of heavy weapons, he warned of the danger of nuclear war. Do you share his concerns?

Andrzej Duda: If we are afraid of Russian nuclear weapons, we should all surrender at once. Because when President Putin comes out and says: now we will drop atomic bombs on the Ukrainian capital, if you do not expand Russia’s sphere of influence to the Atlantic, to Lisbon. Should we then all get scared and follow Putin’s directives and pursue his policies throughout Europe because we are afraid of his nuclear weapons?

But what about these concerns?

Andrzej Duda: I believe that as soon as someone is afraid of Russian blackmail, it will lead to disaster. There is no need to be afraid of threats from Russia, because they will try to threaten us in every possible way. I know how they work. If they open the door a little, they will put their foot in the opening and take more and more. That is what I tried to explain to European and foreign leaders.

Do you think Olaf Scholz is too afraid of Putin? Scholz and Macron’s argument is that a solution can only be negotiated.

Andrzej Duda: I am amazed by all the negotiations that are currently underway with Putin. Chancellor Scholz, President Macron. These conversations are useless. What do they influence? They only affect the legitimacy of the person responsible for the crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine. He is responsible for this. He decided to send troops there. Commanders obey him. Vladimir Putin. Did anyone talk to Adolf Hitler like this during World War II? Did someone say that Adolf Hitler should save face? That we must act in such a way that it is not humiliating for Adolf Hitler? I have not heard such voices.”

Zelensky should participate in telephone conversations?

Andrzej Duda: In my opinion, it is impossible to reach an agreement bypassing the Ukrainian government. There can be no agreements that the Ukrainian government will not agree to.

What solution do you propose?

Andrzej Duda: I would be most interested in the Ukrainian defense getting such support to push the Russians out of their territory.

From Crimea too?

Andrzej Duda: From the entire territory of the Ukrainian state, which is recognized at the international level. Everyone knows what an internationally recognized territory is. So that we can restore the advantage of international law, preserve the order that existed in Europe after 1989, which was recognized by all. And which was repeatedly violated by Russia. Politically recognized international borders must be restored.

How soon should Ukraine join the EU?

Andrzej Duda: This is a political decision of great psychological importance for the defenders of Ukraine. Yes, you are a member of our large European community. Yes, we are open for you. You will become part of the EU. We believe that you can do it. You can not only protect yourself, but also manage all reform processes. Build the economy. We still have to help restore Ukraine. It does not matter whether Ukraine has the status of a candidate for EU membership or not. We must, in any case, put the money out of our pockets and support the restoration of Ukraine. This is clear to everyone. Then we should give Ukraine the status of a candidate. This will be an additional incentive for the population.

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke publicly about the war for the first time. She said there were no mistakes on her part. How big is Angela Merkel’s fault in this situation?

Andrzej Duda: Frau Merkel is no longer chancellor. It is up to historians to evaluate its actions. And I do not want to evaluate the actions of the ex-chancellor. I have been asking for this for many years – I have been the President of Poland for seven years – and again and again I asked her to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2 – to no avail. I described to her the position of our part of Europe – even with the former president of Slovakia, Mr. Kiska – we appealed to stop investments. We tried to tell her that this was Russia’s imperial strategy, and gas was used as a weapon. It was about dominating Europe. The fact that the construction of Nord Stream 2 happened was a huge political disappointment.

Did she not listen to you well enough?

Andrzej Duda: This is my only comment on what I just said.