MS Risk Blog

Assessing Israel’s Operation at Al-Shifa Hospital: Justifiable Defence or Violation?    

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This paper provides an analysis of the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) operations at Al-Shifa Hospital on March 18th. It evaluates the claims regarding the presence of Hamas members, the civilian casualties, and the ethical considerations involved in striking medical facilities. The assessment evaluates the IDF’s compliance with international law and suggests different approaches to the conflict’s settlement in response to the growing concerns.

On March 18th the IDF conducted an operation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza which stood among the “most significant and successful” efforts throughout the intensely disputed six-month conflict with Hamas according to the IDF. They alleged that the facility and many other medical centres served as a hub for Hamas terrorists to carry out operations and conceal their weapons. The Israeli military claimed to have found a tunnel entrance and a vehicle carrying weapons at Al-Shifa hospital complex. Both Hamas and medical administrators strongly denied the accusation that the hospital served as a command centre, and the health ministry in Gaza stated that no weapons were found in the hospital. A British doctor working at Shifa dismissed the allegation as an “outlandish excuse.”

The raid allegedly was designed to eliminate senior Hamas terrorists who were present at the hospital. However, the hospital is estimated to have been sheltering 3,000 civilians as per the Palestinian health officials and IDF.  According to the official media office in Gaza, during the raid, the Israeli attack on the facility resulted in over 250 Palestinians being killed and more others injured.

Israel said that they arrested around 800 individuals, with 480 of them identified as members of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. The IDF began the interrogation of individuals by specialised intelligence units, and those found to be innocent were eventually released. Israeli military spokespersons, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari and Lt Col Jonathan Conricus attempted to justify their actions by providing the media with only a small amount of evidence. Hagari presented a few Kalashnikovs and a motorcycle at al-Rantisi Children’s Hospital, while Conricus presented AK assault weapons without ammunition magazines, a laptop, and cans of WD40 in al-Shifa. Nevertheless, their efforts to support their assertions were regarded with doubt since the evidence provided was insufficient and inconclusive.

Unidentified sources in Gaza for safety concerns, confirm that there is a belief that multiple members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including certain high-ranking commanders, have once again gathered at the hospital. This assumption is mainly based on the assumption that Israel has completed its operations in northern Gaza.

US President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel’s position about the destructive explosion at a Gaza hospital during his brief discussion about Israel. The White House asserted that it possessed independent evidence indicating that Hamas was utilising Al-Shifa, for conducting military operations and perhaps storing weapons.

The activities carried out by the IDF at Al-Shifa Hospital give rise to significant questions regarding ethical standards and compliance with international humanitarian law (Geneva Convention IV). Targeting health institutions and units, such as hospitals, is against the law as these places are designated as protected zones for providing medical care to the wounded. The IDF’s military actions resulted in injuries and harm among civilians and healthcare workers, suggesting a possible failure to uphold these legal responsibilities. These actions could have legal repercussions, especially in light of recent developments such as South Africa’s initiative to bring Israel before international courts for alleged war crimes.

The IDF must urgently revaluate its strategy in this conflict. Rather than resorting to direct raids on hospitals based on intelligence about potential Hamas presence, a more nuanced approach could be adopted. This might involve closely monitoring suspected militants’ movements and preventing attacks on Israel through proactive measures. So far, the IDF’s tactics seem reactive rather than preventative, highlighting the need for a shift in approach to better comply with legal and ethical standards while ensuring the protection of civilians.

By following the approach of monitoring the group as many governments have conducted in previous operations including operations Barkhane, an African military initiative initiated in 2014 under the leadership of France, which aimed to counteract terrorism and instability in the Sahel region. The operation utilised air support, combat forces, and intelligence gathering to target associates of al-Qaeda and ISIS, among other terrorist organisations. With the assistance of international support and contributions from partner nations, the primary objectives were to neutralise militants, destroy their networks, and provide support to local security forces. Despite ongoing threats and challenges, the operation emphasised on minimising civilian casualties through precise targeting and thorough preparation to promote stability and security in the region.

To summarise, Israel’s Operation at Al-Shifa Hospital highlights the complex balance between the need for defence and the standards of humanitarianism. The operation’s impact on non-combatant casualties and moral challenges needs a revaluation of military tactics, highlighting the significance of following legal and ethical norms while safeguarding innocent lives which Israel has been dismissing so far.

Moldova’s Pivot to the West

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Key Judgements:

It is highly likely that President Sandu will be re-elected in upcoming presidential election of 2024. (High confidence)

It is Almost certain that re-elected President Sandu would attempt to join EU, aiming to become a member state within the next 10 years. (High confidence)

It is unlikely Moldova will attempt to join NATO in the next 18 months (Medium confidence)

It is highly likely that Moldova will suffer more intense Russian led hybrid warfare, concerning Transnistria in the next 18 months. (High confidence)

It is realistically possible that direct military confrontation between Moldova and separatist could happen in the next 18 months.

Moldova, a small post-Soviet state, finds itself at a pivotal juncture in its history, grappling with threats from Russia. Moldova has historically maintained a cultural divergence from Russian civilization, showing a closer affinity with Romania. This distinction became blurred with the 18th-century expansion of the Russian Empire, which subsumed the territory of contemporary Moldova, a condition that lasted until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The demographic landscape of Moldova, characterized by substantial Russian and Ukrainian populations, remained unaltered post-independence.

The political environment bequeathed to Moldova was fraught with challenges, especially from pro-Russian elements, leading to the emergence of Transnistria and Gagauzia. These entities have persistently pursued independence, echoing the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and complicating Moldova’s endeavours to align with NATO and the EU.

Moldova, as one of Europe’s least affluent countries, was profoundly reliant on Russia economically, a dependence that exacerbated its economic downturn post-2014 when relations with Russia soured. The advent of COVID-19 in 2020 and the Ukraine conflict in 2022 further debilitated GDP growth, diminished foreign investment, and spurred inflation, which surged to 34% in October 2022, marking one of the highest rates in Europe.

In this context, Moldova has striven to maintain a delicate balance between the West and Russia. Despite Russian machinations aimed at derailing pro-EU policies and the presence of pro-Russian separatists, efforts to enhance ties with the West have been stymied. However, President Maia Sandu, who took office in December 2020, with a robust economic background and substantial connections with the US, has ardently championed pro-EU policies and domestic reforms. The Ukraine crisis in 2022 propelled her to file an application for EU membership a month post-invasion, delineating a definitive stance against Russian encroachments.

This scenario mirrors Ukraine’s existential predicament, suggesting Moldova could be Russia’s next target. Despite the Russian military’s failure to advance in Odesa, a strategic entry point to Moldova, Russia persists in exerting non-military pressure on Moldova. In 2023, Moldovan intelligence disclosed Russia’s illicit funneling of over $55 million to sway local elections. Moreover, pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Shor has been implicated in orchestrating protests and election fraud.

Russian influence has deeply infiltrated Moldova’s political sphere, evident in the support that figures such as Ion Ceban, the capital’s mayor, have received from ex-FSB officers. The separatist movements in Transnistria and Gagauzia remain a significant concern, with Russia’s interest in these regions noticeably intensifying in recent months. In response, the Moldovan government and its Western allies have undertaken measures to counter these threats, including the suspension of the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, removing military constraints. Also, flooding media reports that pictures President Sandu as the ideal figure for the EU suggest that the narrative to include Moldova as EU member is getting thrust within the EU decision makers.

Amid these challenges, the current administration has pursued pro-EU policies with unprecedented level backed by political victory. The Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), the governing party, garnered 52.80% in the 2021 parliamentary elections. President Sandu’s victory in the 2020 election by a 15% margin, alongside the PAS party’s continued popularity, as demonstrated in the 2023 local elections, underscores a significant political shift. The current administration’s biggest political baggage is economic situation, but the PAS party and President Sandu still maintain public support by driving EU agenda as a main policy.

The 2024 presidential election emerges as a critical moment for Moldova, President Sandu, Russia, and the West. President Sandu’s decision to coincide the EU membership referendum with the presidential election signifies the centrality of EU relations to the electoral discourse. Despite the complex public sentiment on security threats from Russia and the value of neutrality, the endorsement for EU membership is palpable, with 48% support for the referendum and a mere 27% favouring NATO membership, underscoring a widespread desire for economic and political stability amidst a 69% majority valuing neutrality as paramount for Moldova’s security. If President Sandu could maintain her highest approval rate until the presidential election in Fall, it would be possible for her to continue her administration with the support of dominance in the parliament.

Currently, Russia has a very small entry point to Moldovan politics. With more people seeing EU as a better economic partner than Russia, and the sanctions that targeted Russian foreign business, Russia is losing its economic influence within the country. This means Russia is losing its non-kinetic options against Moldova, which eventually lead to a more violent and drastic measure to keep Moldova in line. Russia’s foreign minister publicly announcing to protect separatist Russian in Moldova, and installation of polling station in Transnistria for the Russian presidential election is one of the indicators of Russian desperation.

Within these contexts, the President Sandu’s administration and separatist is in a zero-sum game. It is highly likely that actor would be a driving force of increasing domestic tension. Also, Russia with continuing embarrassment in Ukraine, increasing domestic nationalism and public scrutiny after the presidential election, the Kremlin simply cannot endure another ex-soviet nation to join the West.  In both practical sense and saving President Putin’s face.

Therefore, with the assumption that President Sandu would win in presidential election of 2024, Moldova is highly likely to desperately attempt to join the EU. However, it is unlikely that Moldova will attempt to join NATO simultaneously while pursuing EU membership. It is highly likely that Russian led hybrid warfare against Moldova will intensify to historical levels, but it is unlikely that President Sandu or the public opinion would change its course because of it.

It is realistically possible there would be a direct military confrontation between Moldova and the separatist government, and it is also realistically possible Russian proxy force would intervene in this scenario. However, this confrontation could create patriotic public opinion or demand of neutrality. The shift of public opinion would be dependent on the amount of threat by separatist, reaction of Moldova, Western support, US presidential election and ongoing Ukraine war. These variables would have a direct effect on the parliamentary election in 2025, that would decide the nation’s driving policy.

It is highly unlikely that direct Russian invasion would happen.

This detailed analysis highlights the intricate and dynamic political landscape of Moldova, marked by internal discord, external pressures, and the quest for a balanced and secure future. The impending electoral and referendum processes are pivotal in determining Moldova’s trajectory amid ongoing geopolitical tensions and domestic challenges.

Within this context, it is clear that both the separatist and Moldovian governments is in a zero-sum game. It is likely that the separatist governments of Transnistira and Gagaugia would demand Russian intervention for survival.

Deploying the Taurus KEPD 350 to Ukraine – Pros and Cons

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Key Judgements:

  • The German-Swedish manufactured Taurus KEPD 350 is an extremely versatile missile system that could be operationally, tactically and strategically be beneficial to the Ukrainian Armed Forces if it is given the green light to be deployed to Ukraine by Germany.
  • The Ukrainian military could use the Taurus KEPD 350 to target Russian targets that are beyond the range of the United Kingdom’s Storm Shadow Missile or France’s SCALP.
  • Despite the benefits of the missile, if it was deployed to Ukraine, it would entice Russia to become more aggressive and escalate the conflict. Because of this and other disadvantages of deploying Taurus KEPD 350, Germany ultimately will not deploy the missile. However, Germany could be forced to supply the system to Ukraine in the near future if Russia continues to make advances in Ukraine and if Ukraine continues to suffer from shortages of Western ammunition.

The Taurus KEPD 350 is a German-Swedish manufactured modular stand off long range missile system which can be used for precision strikes against hardened, deeply buried and high value point area targets. The missile incorporates stealth technology, carries a highly effective 481kg duel-stage warhead system known as MEPHISTO, has an operational range in excess of 500km. Taurus is designed to penetrate air defences via a very low level terrain following flight and remains the only stand off missile system which can be programmed to detonate on a specific pre-selected floor of a building. The missile system flies at an altitude of only 35 meters, and can reach speeds of up to 727 miles per hour which makes it impossible for radar systems to detect. The missile also comes equipped with four independent navigation systems which it uses to stay on course when in flight, a satellite supported GPS system which has been shielded against attempts to jam it and a terrain-referenced navigation system with image sensors which the missile uses to determine its position when honing in on a target. The Taurus KEPD 350 is evidently a very advanced, effective and operationally beneficial system, and one in which could have the potential to benefit Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia. With Ukraine recently facing shortages of western ammunition as well as shortages of  air defence missile systems, the Taurus KEPD 350 certainly  looks more and more appealing to the Ukrainian military. However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has continuously and repeatedly voiced his concerns surrounding sending Taurus to Ukraine. Scholz argues that sending the missile system to Ukraine would be “irresponsible” and also “a line that I – as chancellor – do not want to cross”. In contrast to Germany’s view, the United Kingdom and France have supplied Ukraine with their Storm Shadow and SCALP cruise missile systems. This begs the following questions: Should Germany supply Ukraine with it’s Taurus KEPD 350 system? What would be the advantages or disadvantages for Ukraine if Germany supplied them with the missile system or chose not to?

The Taurus KEPD 350 has the potential to be a game changer for Ukraine in its war against Russia. From an operational perspective, if Germany choose to give the green light in supplying these missiles to Ukraine it would be advantageous to Ukraine as the missile system would have the potential to strengthen and bolster Ukraine’s own defensive capabilities whilst simultaneously offering Ukraine the advantage of being able to launch long range precision strikes against Russian targets from over 500km away. The UK’s Storm Shadow and France’s SCALP missile systems have a range of less than 300km. The Taurus’ longer range of 500km would be beneficial to Ukraine because it would allow Ukraine to engage Russian targets from a safe distance which would likely be well beyond the reach of most Russian air defence systems. Taurus’ longer targeting range in combination with MEPHISTO, would enable Ukraine to have the capability to conduct a variety of strikes on a range of Russian strategic and tactical targets, thus giving Ukraine the potential to destroy Russian defence systems that Ukraine previously may not have been able to target with Storm Shadow or SCALP missiles. Ukraine could potentially target Russian positions far behind the front line and could use the missile system to strike targets in Russian-occupied Crimea. The combination of the Taurus KEPD 350’s stealth technology and its low level terrain flights which are conducted at high speeds would arguably give Ukraine the ability to launch an conduct surprise strikes on Russian high value targets which are well fortified and protected without alerting Russian defence or radar systems. Another operational  advantage for Ukraine would be that if Germany chose to send these missiles over, it would allow Ukraine to have the capability to install them on various aircraft, ground and sea platforms therefore offering Ukraine a significant operational advantage as well as valuable strategic flexibility which are two very important assets for the Ukrainian military as it currently finds itself in an operationally challenging conflict environment. Overall, these advantages demonstrate that the Taurus KEPD 350 would be a potent addition to Ukraine’s armed forces.

On the other hand, the decision to supply and deploy the Taurus KEPD 350 missile system to Ukraine has a risk of escalating the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The missile system is sufficiently far reaching and it could  hit  targets deep inside Russia, which could make the Kremlin view Germany and by extension NATO becoming more involved in the war. Russia has repeatedly warned against the delivery of the Taurus weapon system to Ukraine. Therefore it is highly likely that their deployment to Ukraine would coincide with a noticeable and sharp surge in Russian escalation of the conflict. Germany’s decision not to deploy Taurus could also be operationally detrimental to Ukraine in the short term as it could enable Russian forces to advance deeper into Ukraine, enabling them to occupy, annex and control more territory without worrying about far away Russian targets   as the ones that are outside of the range of the Shadow Storm and SCALP missiles would be largely safe to some degree. A small  disadvantage would be that if the Taurus system was given to Ukraine, the integration of the long range missile system onto the SU-24M would take up to six months. It would take two months to install the missile on the jets and up to four months to prepare the personnel involved in the use of the weapons. The Taurus KEPD 350 can also be installed on F-16’s. Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium have promised to give Ukraine 45 F-16’s over the course of 2024 and into 2025. Experts predict that the missile would take up to twelve to eighteen months to integrate onto the F-16. This presents a small disadvantage operationally to Ukraine because they wouldn’t be able to install the missile on their aircraft immediately, which would be arguably beneficial for Russia. Another disadvantage of handing over the missile system to Ukraine is that there are also very few copies of the Taurus’ complex data which are needed to program the missile. Therefore if Germany handed over these missiles to Ukraine it is likely that it would lose access to the scarce complex data material which makes it a risky move for Germany. Germany also believes that the missiles could only be deployed using soldiers from the Bundeswehr, which would run the risk of dragging Germany into the war against Russia.

With the operational advantages and disadvantages in mind, should Germany send the Taurus KEPD 350 to Ukraine? Despite offering various tactical and strategic advantages for Ukraine, the deployment of the Taurus missile system to Ukraine would undoubtably raise Russian aggressiveness and could provoke Russia to pursue an escalation of the contemporary conflict, which would present a variety of issues to Ukraine and her NATO allies both now and in the near future. Moreover, the deployment of the missiles have been assessed in Germany as being unable to be deployed or used responsibly by without the deployment of German soldiers. This in combination with a large amount of the German public supporting the decision not to send these missiles to Ukraine makes it painfully clear that the decision to deploy Taurus to Ukraine is one which should ultimately not go ahead despite the military advantages that it would provide Ukraine. However, if Russia keeps advancing into Ukraine, and Ukraine continues to struggle to gain vital western ammunition supplies then a line may have to be crossed for Germany in the future in which it may be forced to play its hand and deliver the missiles to Ukraine. What is certain is that currently these missiles will remain in German hands and will not be deployed to Ukraine despite the operational advantages and benefits they could offer the Ukrainian military. The operational and strategic environment on the battlefield is always subject to change but as Sun Zu in the Art of War notes, one must “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move”.

UK economic consequences from Red Sea disruption

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Key Judgments:

  1. It is likely that negative market sentiment will drive inflationary pressures in the next 12 months. (High confidence).
  2. It is likely that the Bank of England will not cut interest rates in the next 12 months. (Low confidence).
  3. It is highly likely that the UK GDP will not grow in the next 12 months. (Low confidence).

Interest rates

UK interest rates starting from August 2023 to March 2024 have been set to 5.25%, the highest since the 2008 financial crisis. The inflation rate, as a result of these high interest rates, has dropped from 10% in November of 2022, to 4% as of Jan 2024, which means the high interest rates served their purpose effectively. This drop in inflation has resulted in the prospect of easing interest rates by the Bank of England. Assuming continued disruption in the Red Sea, which appears to be almost certain, a shift of market sentiment will highly likely occur, as well real economic disruption, which are likely to reignite inflationary pressures. Additionally, the government will have to commit more resources to defense and rearmament. With these sustained inflationary pressures on the UK market, it is likely that the Bank of England will keep interest rates high to continue to battle these pressures. It is worth noting that interest rates are determined by many more factors than a singular disruptive event, and thus the Bank of England may still opt to decrease interest rates for other reasons in the next 12 months.


Of the UK’s £3.1 trillion GDP, £1.74 trillion of this was as a result of trade in 2023. UK exports to countries affected by the Red Sea shipping lane make up an estimated £128 billion, and imports from these countries amount to roughly £120 billion. Sustained disruption of up to £250 billion in trade is likely to affect the ability of the UK to expand its industries. The manufacturing sector has already been impacted, with a reading from the S&P Global composite PMI highlighting a three-month drop to 44.9 for manufacturing output. A reading above 50 indicates growth, and below 50 indicates shrinkage. Given that the UK’s industrial sector makes up 20% of its GDP and has already begun to feel the impacts of the disruption in the Red Sea, it is likely that continued disruption will affect the UK’s ability to grow its GDP.


Furthermore, the Houthis announced on 14 March 2024 that they are set to expand their operations, now aiming to prevent Israeli-linked ships from passing through the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope, the only remaining supply route aside from the Red Sea between Europe and Asia. Whilst the claim is that its targets will be Israeli ships, this was also the claim in the Red Sea, wherein all ships, regardless of ownership or destination, were targeted by missiles. We can infer then that UK owned or operated vessels will be at high risk even whilst attempting to circumvent the Red Sea, further exacerbating the issues of inflationary pressure and strain on GDP growth mentioned above.


Assuming that the Houthis continue to disrupt commercial shipping in the Red Sea and successfully expand to the Indian Ocean, the economic consequences on the UK would be felt rather quickly by the population. Effects on the manufacturing sector to name one, as well as up to £250 billion of trade with Middle Eastern and Asian countries, are likely to affect the UK’s ability to grow its GDP. Negative market sentiment due to the uncertainty of disruption and conflict is a driving factor for inflation, which will further impede the UK’s ability to grow its GDP due to the likelihood of the Bank of England maintaining high interest rates.


Poland’s Political Situation

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Key Judgement: Within the next three months, it is likely that political disruption of current administration would be continue. It is likely that current government would not strongarm farmer protest.

The current Polish Prime Minister, who first ascended to power in 2007, initially gained recognition for his moderate approach towards political rivals. However, his subsequent administration, following an eight-year hiatus dominated by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has adopted a more confrontational stance against its predecessor. The PiS party, which secured a majority government through the 2015 parliamentary elections and was re-elected in 2019, draws its primary support from blue-collar workers. These individuals perceive leftist economic policies as neglectful of their needs. The party’s core base—older, religious, conservative, and patriotic citizens—predominantly resides in rural areas and small towns, especially in the southeast, a region historically marked by occupation and brutality at the hands of the USSR in the 20th century. Within this context, PiS has pursued nationalistic campaigns while assuming control over the judiciary, media, and cultural institutions, thereby exacerbating political polarization.

The 2023 parliamentary elections resulted in a coalition government formed by the Civic Coalition, Third Way, and The Left, under the leadership of Donald Tusk, which garnered 54% of the vote. This victory, however, sparked controversy due to PiS still winning a plurality of seats. In the parliamentary system, this scenario necessitates Tusk, the Civic Coalition leader, to forge alliances with the other two parties to secure a majority against PiS. Complicating matters further is the re-election of Polish President Andrzej Duda, a PiS member, in 2020 for a five-year term. Although the presidency is largely ceremonial in Poland’s parliamentary system, it possesses sufficient authority to challenge the current administration with PiS’s support.

Despite these challenges, Tusk is spearheading ambitious reforms to dismantle the legacy of the eight-year PiS rule. Notably, two former PiS ministers were arrested within the Presidential Palace, and the public television station TVP was shut down due to its role as a major propaganda tool for the former administration in December 2023. Tusk’s administration has also initiated efforts to reverse the abortion ban and launched an investigation into the use of Pegasus spyware, allegedly employed by the previous government to target political adversaries. On the international front, Tusk has focused on strengthening ties with the EU and the US, a move that has inspired hope among Poland’s liberal populace while stirring dissent among conservatives. Acts of political sabotage by President Duda, such as pardoning the two arrested former ministers, further complicate the situation for the current administration.

Another critical juncture for Tusk is the upcoming local elections on April 7, which will determine city and provincial leaderships. A victory for PiS, especially in the provincial assemblies, is crucial to maintaining its political influence. Conversely, success in the local elections could stabilize the current government’s position. The European Parliament elections in June also pose a significant challenge for Tusk and the EU, with Poland electing 53 seats, the fourth largest contingent. The outcome could potentially undermine Tusk’s government domestically, especially when PiS supported EU parliament members start anti-EU policy with the help from other European nation’s far right members.

The ongoing nationwide farmers’ protest, fueled by opposition to EU green regulations and cheap Ukrainian imports, has become a pivotal issue. With 77.2% of the Polish population supporting the farmers’ movement, Tusk is compelled to endorse it. The protests, which have led to blockades at the Ukraine-Poland border, place the government in a precarious position, as any aggressive response could bolster PiS’s support, particularly in its stronghold in the southeast. Additionally, framing the protest as undermining Ukraine could contradict Tusk’s anti-Russian foreign policy, offering PiS another opportunity to criticize the government.

In conclusion, the current farmers’ protest serves as a critical leverage point for both the government and the PiS party. It is probable that the protest leaders recognize their advantageous position in the coming months. PiS is likely to capitalize on this for the local and EU Parliament elections, while the government may find itself unable to enact drastic measures to quell the movement. Ironically, the protest inadvertently supports Russia’s campaign in Ukraine, thus challenging Tusk’s foreign policy stance. As such, the political landscape in Poland is expected to remain turbulent in the upcoming months.