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Apparently formalizing an (EP) alliance between Poland's ruling party PiS and Hungary's ruling part Fidesz, despite numerous ideological similarities, might be held back by differences over Russia and Ukraine. I'm not sure I understand why those differences exist though. Both Poland and Hungary are former Soviet-block states and both share a border with Ukraine for instance.

It's true that Poland has a direct border with Russia, but only with the Kaliningrad exclave. This alone doesn't seem sufficiently explanatory, unless Russia somehow threatens more annexations, but officially at least there are only like 13,000 Russians in Poland, so I'm guessing that's not a serious concern.

Apparently PiS supports Ukraine's EU membership/application but Fidesz seemingly does not. There are somewhat sizeable Hungarian and Polish minorities in Ukraine (almost equal in number apparently), but for a reason that escapes me Ukraine is only treating badly the Hungarian minority (if Fidesz is to be believed), so I'm not sure how much of this is a matter of realities vs perceptions.

So why is there a big divergence over Russia (and Ukraine) between PiS and Fidesz?

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    Good question. Despite 1956 in Hungary, it is the Polish governments who are now more vociferous (some would say paranoid) about relations with Russia. For immovable historical reasons, there is also mistrust of Berlin, and by extension the EU. Perhaps it is this avoidance of both continental power centers, that led Poland to absorb relatively more US influence in strategic matters, compared to Hungary. In contrast, Hungary cooperated with Russia on energy, receiving cheap gas and is planning to use the savings to modernize its nuclear generation (already 50%). This helps defuse tensions.
    – Pete W
    Nov 1, 2021 at 18:47
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    Poland has a common border not only with Kaliningrad, but with Belarus as well, and Belarus is Russia for all practical purposes in recent years.
    – fraxinus
    Jan 24 at 12:06

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This is a complex issue, and I try to answer it from the Hungarian point of view, but not as a government fan.

Although the Hungarian and Polish minorities are basically of equal size in Ukraine, they are not of equal size relative to the population of Hungary (~10M) and Poland (~38M). Moreover, Hungary is especially sensitive to minority rights of ethnic Hungarians in the neighbouring states, as relatively much more are there compared to its size (~600k in Slovakia, ~1.5M in Romania, altogether around 2.5M in the neighbouring countries, which is 20-25% of the total number of Hungarians in Central Europe). This is mostly due to the borders drawn in the Trianon dictate/treaty. Due to Ukraine's recent laws suppressing minority languages, the diplomatic relations dropped significantly and Hungary vetoes any form of official contact between NATO and Ukraine until these laws are withdrawn. Poland on the other hand has received large territories from Germany after WWII as compensation for the territories taken away, so they are probably not that much against the status quo on the east as the Hungarians.

I was also surprised by this, but it seems to me that Orbán has good personal relations with Putin and other high-rank officials of Russia. As I understand it, he wants to increase the trade with Russia as much as possible (and also with China). That is why he also wants to lift the EU sanctions on Russia. On the other hand, he often mentions that he supports a strong European army that counterbalances the Russian army. I think that the Poles might not have realised yet that they can trade with someone without aligning militarily with them.

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    Good point regarding the relative size of those pop. living abroad to Hungary itself. I've read somewhere that Orban gave them citizenship and 95% vote for him. (It seems that was in 2014 politico.eu/article/… Maybe the proportion is less now.)
    – Fizz
    Nov 2, 2021 at 10:40
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Other than with Hungary, the conflict between Poland and Russia starts not just after World War 2, when both Poland and Hungary were forced to become satellites of the USSR, but goes centuries back. Already in 1612, there was a war between Russia and Poland, which were both regional powers at that time. Decades later, part of Poland was completely occupied by Russia for more than a century, so the history of conflict is different and much longer.

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As a Pole I can add a Polish perspective.

Saying that Poland has had poor relations with Russia historically is true, but a similar thing can be said about Germany. But in contrast to Russia, Germany is now a democracy, which proved itself after World War II. Russia is still seen as a major threat to Poland, thus the quick accession to NATO in 1999 which was finalised by the government run by former communist party members.

No sensible, serious politician in Poland from any party would trust Putin's Russia. And a right wing party would be even more anti-Russian for historical reasons. Gas and oil supply from Russia is seen in Poland as a major strategic weakness as Russia is known in Poland for blackmailing its trading partners for political gains. I remember an embargo on Polish apples and pork, so it's not only about energy supply.

Poland is trying to diversify its supply of natural gas, so it's not that Poland doesn't trade with Russia – it's more that this is considered risky, and there is only a low level of trust towards Russia, and hence a need for new trade partners.

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