How Poland Annoys America
Andrzej Duda. Photo by: JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

Andrzej Duda. Photo by: JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

In its strife to find a place among the leaders of the Western world, Warsaw risks ending up as “loose change” in Russian-American political games

As of late, Washington has seen in Poland a problem rather than an ally. Such is the view of a respectable American newspaper Politico that refers to western diplomats. They are increasingly irritated by Warsaw’s intention to push its initiative at the forthcoming NATO summit on Jule, 8-9. The Polish elites seem to be obsessed by desire to have NATO deploy forces on the territory of their country.

From August to September of 2015 the new President of Poland Andrzej Duda had paid visits to Estonia, Germany, Great Britain and USA. The purpose of that political tour was to convince those members of the alliance that NATO had to establish more military bases in Poland to fend off “Russian aggression”. Previously, Russian Planet wrote about Warsaw’s vision of itself as NATO’s citadel in Eastern Europe, which would let the country profit through maintenance of foreign troops.

As Politico points out, Berlin fiercely opposes such political maneuvers. The German government wishes no tension with Russia and repeatedly refers to the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation from May 27, 1997. This document forbids the alliance to increase its military presence and deploy “substantial combat forces” in Europe.

Duda, however, ignores German warnings, and continues to push demands that contradict international law. If the Polish President eventually persuades Obama to do as he bids, NATO’s reputation as a legitimate organization will be forever besmirched. The alliance’s purpose may be to contain Russia but it should be reminded that agreements concluded in the 1990s are still in effect. NATO is obliged to abide by them despite a fracture in relations with its great eastern neighbor.

“Putinization” of Poland

Politico notes that conflict between the government and Constitutional Tribunal of Poland has become one of the major factors of quarrel between Warsaw and Washington. The Tribunal had claimed unconstitutional a number of decisions on changing the protocol of court hearings. However, the government refused to publish that resolution, not allowing it to take effect. The USA regards such actions of executive power as violation of democratic principles.

Another stumbling block between the West and Poland is the latter imposing censorship on mass media. The conservatives (Law and Justice party) make it look like there is nothing extraordinary in that. They prefer to put blame on the opposition (Civic Platform party) and also Germany, which is perceived as a main competitor for dominance in the European Union.

At the end of January of 2016 Manfred Weber, leader of the largest faction of the European Parliament – European People’s Party Group – had made an oral warning for Poland. In addition to that, some European activists had labeled Andrzey Duda’s political course as “Putinization”. It is obvious that Polish establishment is deeply wounded by any comparison with “aggressive Russia”.

It seems another anti-Russian crusade in Poland’s mass media is aimed exactly at negating that derogatory assessment. This campaign centers around the incident that dates back to April 10, 2010 when the Tu-154M airbus crashed from the skies over Smolensk in Russia. The catastrophe claimed lives of 96 people including the then President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and high-ranking representatives of the country’s military elite.

Обломки самолета Ту-154, на борту которого находились 96 человек, в том числе президент Польши Лех Качиньский с супругой

The debris of the Tu-154 that had carried 96 people including President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife. Photo by: Olga Lisinova/TASS

Polish conspiracy theory

Investigation conducted by both Russian and Polish sides had shown that the crash had been caused by failure of the crew. Despite that, the Polish authorities regularly raise doubts about the commonly accepted version. For example, Antoni Macierewicz, Polish Minister for Defense, recently stated that the plane crash had been a terrorist attack with aim of “depriving Poland of administration”.

“We have to remember that we were victims of terror in the thirties, and now we can say that we are victims of terror in a modern conflict that’s boiling right before us… What happened on the Smolensk ground had purpose of depriving Poland of administration, which had been leading our people to independence,” Macierewicz said.

Warsaw seems to deliberately put a veil over the facts of the Tu-154M’s catastrophe. There is indeed a great expanse for hectic imagination of conspiracy theory enthusiasts. The airbus was Russian, airport and air traffic controllers were Russian, and the President was to visit the mourning site of the 70th anniversary of execution of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest.

Seemingly, the Polish elites regard – and want others to regard – that incident as kind of a symbolic “revenge of the Russians”. Given the current high degree of Russophobia, it would be politically profitable for Warsaw to create a new myth of “Russian aggression”. Poland’s attempts to inflate the story of Kaczyński’s demise look exactly like attempts of Great Britain to build illusory hysteria and hype around the case of Litvinenko.

The Russian authorities have reacted to the statement of Polish Minister for Defense by calling it groundless, ridiculous and irresponsible. The official position of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that Macierewicz’s words are nothing but speculation. The voice of reason has also been heard in the political environment of Poland itself. “The Western world is watching us. The Ministry of Defense is headed by a man who tells unbelievable tales,” stated Slavomír Neumann, chairman of the Civic Platform party group in the Sejm.

Victim complex

Situated between the Western European and Russian civilizations, Poland has always strived to claim the role of a great European power and pivot of unity of the Slavonic world. However, the golden age of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (XVI-XVII cent.) remains the only historical period when Poland had been able to take real advantage of its geographic and cultural position.

The epoch of empires is long gone but the Polish establishment still trembles before aggressive intentions of some countries, developing victim complex. Political scientists believe that even the process of European integration had been viewed by Warsaw as a means of spreading its influence across eastern neighbors, and then struggle for dominance with Germany itself. It was time when it seemed that Poland had found in the USA an ally who would support its ambitions.

When Duda came to power (August 2016) it became obvious that Warsaw failed. Poland had spread influence only in the Baltic region, while disenchanting Brussels and – most importantly – infuriating Washington. Anti-Russian campaign has also proved to be ludicrous as relations between the United States and Russian Federation are now taking a warmer tone.

Politico offers strong argument that Washington has made it clear for Poland that the Eastern European wannabe leader can forget about fulfilling its ambitious project. With the “Reload” of RF – US relations in 2009, Poland’s dream of missile defense systems was turned to dust. It is likely that in 2016, Warsaw will again end up as “loose change” in Russian-American political games.

Оригинальный текст (original)

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