Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gordon Brown's Polish streak


Gordon Brown's Polish streak

Mar 29th 2007

Let Warsaw reach out to Westminster

HERE are two big puzzles for Europe: how to deal with a Britain run, as it probably soon will be, by Gordon Brown (see picture below right); and how to deal with Poland run, as it is now, by the Kaczynski twins—Lech (see picture below left) as president and Jaroslaw as prime minister. There are striking similarities. Both the putative British leader and the current Polish ones are brooding, mistrustful figures, prone to obsessions, and with notable blind spots about Europe.

Mr Brown’s distaste for meetings with his European Union counterparts is famous. Asked once by his officials, “Would you like to meet the new German finance minister?” he replied with plangent honesty, “No”.

He rarely turns up to EU conclaves, preferring to send a deputy. On occasions when he has steeled himself to go—for example, when Britain was president of the EU—he would read a prepared statement larded with pungent criticism of other countries and then sit fidgeting until the earliest possible moment when he could decently depart.

That sounds pretty much like the Kaczynskis’ approach to foreign affairs: identify the areas of disagreement, make a strong speech, and hurry home. Both they and Mr Brown dislike the fudge and mudge of multilateral negotiation, with its cynical exchange of favours and endless horse-trading. They detest professional diplomats.

The Kaczynskis, like Mr Brown, prefer a tight circle of close advisers. They have a weakness for micro-management, but are willing to delegate in matters that don’t interest them. Naturally shy, they are much nicer in private than in public.


The differences are in the areas of interest. The Kaczynskis are economic illiterates; Mr Brown thinks of little else (though they share a dislike for the euro). The Kaczynskis are minutely interested in security, intelligence and the criminal justice system. Mr Brown has little time for soldiers, spooks or lawyers. Nobody knows what he thinks about Russia.

So far Mr Brown’s foibles have not especially damaged Britain’s standing in Europe. But the Kaczynskis have damaged Poland’s. The wholesale sackings of experienced but supposedly compromised senior officials, a series of cancelled meetings, unnecessary snubs and rows initiated by the Kaczynskis have all had regrettable effects.

A meeting of the EU’s “big six” countries was called off at less than 24 hours notice and with the Italian and Spanish officials already in Warsaw. When a German newspaper insulted him, President Lech Kaczynski regarded it as a matter of state, and sulked when no German official phoned to commiserate.

From being a diplomatic power-house under the rule of sleazy but effective ex-communists, Poland has come close to being seen as a joke, and a bad one at that.

That’s unfair. The Kaczynskis’ basic interests in foreign policy are sound: they distrust Russia, they are disappointed with Germany, and they see America as the ultimate basis for Poland’s security. They believe that energy supplies are not a matter of commerce alone, but of national defence.

The problem has been turning principles into policies and actions. Little has been done, and poorly even then. At the end of 2005 Germany suggested that Poland should join in a planned Russian-German gas pipeline under the Baltic sea. The response was immediate: Poland wanted not a cubic metre more of Russian gas, thank you very much.

That was a bold move, but, in retrospect, a bad mistake. As a partner in the pipeline Poland could have gained (and even leaked) information about the project’s financial arrangements: historically, wherever Russian oil and gas has gone, slush funds have tended to follow. It could have asked for a share of the construction contracts.

The Kaczynskis do seem to realise now that they have some catching up to do. They could do worse than try striking up a friendship with Mr Brown. They could fill him in about Russia; he could explain to them how to run a finance ministry. And all three would have someone else to talk to at those uncongenial European summits.


Kuba said...

In one of the most peculiar arguments I have ever seen in print, E.L verges on the comical as he strives to warp and squeeze facts to render them servant to his pre-programmed thesis that Polish foreign policy is just no good.

He chooses to exemplify this on ‘a bad mistake' – he says it was for the Polish government to have rejected German offer to include Poland in the Baltic pipeline project, the one sealed by Germany and Russian Federation 3 years ago.
It might be worthwhile to read for fun, only with a few important facts to bear in mind – all of them are accessible - no secret information, no well-informed insiders:

1. no similar offer was ever made at the time of signing .

It is worth remembering that the incriminated project had been sealed with bi-lateral agreement between Germany and Russian Federation for over two years (Schroeder), when this grand offer was made and not a whisper of involving Poland. No wonder…

2. the project has no sense in it economically.

…whatsoever. Consider the following facts :

- existing 'Yamal' pipeline is far from being made use of to its full capacity:

The demand for natural gas in the E.U - including estimated growth - can fully be met by means of the existing 'Yamal' pipeline, which is not fully used despite lack of technological obstacles -

putting up a whole new pipeline paralell to the ‘Yamal’ would be much cheaper and faster tha the Baltic adveture:

And that would be the most expensive variant, in the unlikely event the demand for gas exceeded the estimates. (many elements like service points – nods - could stay). Not a hint of will to prepare ground for such a possibility has ever been detected.

Given these basics it becomes clear that it were not the markets that prompted the Baltic project -

no private enterprise would even ponder spending a cent on the costly underwater extravaganza

.. for the sheer exteritorial character of it…

…so may it be political? Russia is widely known to do its foreign policy by means of gas and oil and the exteritorial character of the Baltic project does indeed enhance potential in this respect. Consider this:

The ‘Yamal’ pipeline has a major drawback when it is regarded as a foreign policy tool - it works indiscriminately;

…imagine Russia threatens to shut the flow in the pipe to gain cocessions from Belarus or Poland…now, by doing so, it would stirr a big clamour of protests across the continent - thus what was supposed to work for the purpose turns against it and manifold at that as joint pressure from gas-starved Europe would reduce the leverage over Belarus or Poland.

The Baltic pipe-line invalidates this restriction - Russia will be able to exert its gas power at will in its foreign policy, against Poland or any other close-range target, while the rest of Europe will keep sucking their undersea pipe as if nothing happened. …beautiful!

althouigh, for Poland, to join in the middle of a project which has a sole sense in boosting the blachmail arsenal of one of the two original parties to it would be insane. In fact, it is conceivable only with E.L as a prime minister and president in one unholy frame.

In view of this: was it a bad mistake to turn down the offer so well intended?
What has been lost, according to E.L – I shall quote the paragraph in extenso:

As a partner in the pipeline Poland could have gained (and even leaked) information about the project’s financial arrangements: historically, wherever Russian oil and gas has gone, slush funds have tended to follow. It could have asked for a share of the construction contracts ….
....and what then? Call Robin and save Gotham City?...

It would be funny but it has a stinky smell to it: E.L knows perfectly well all the facts - only a complete idiot would write what he wrote knowing it and since he does betray some operational cleverness, of which traces may be found all over his productions, on the scenes of his fiddling with facts, the conclusion becomes self-imposing:

E.L is deliberately disseminating wrongful black PR about Poland (but also abouy other countries) praying on those unfortunates who read you having no knowledge of the facts other than your brazen lies.

E.L must be either a crystalline idiot or a proffessional and skillful liar. Out of the two, the former is highly unlikely.

Ed, the old Russian disident based in London - whom you make a focus of your telephone-conversation skills’ display in the little diary of yours...
...he might after all have had a good reason to have flushed you down the toilette as he did!

Greg said...

Dear Kuba

To begin with, there is no need to be offensive, and most of blog readers would not appreciate your vocabulary.

You do not seem to have understood this article. EL actually praises the basis of the Poland's foreign policy. ("The Kaczynskis’ basic interests in foreign policy are sound: they distrust Russia, they are disappointed with Germany, and they see America as the ultimate basis for Poland’s security. They believe that energy supplies are not a matter of commerce alone, but of national defence.")

The fact is that its implementation is rather poor. And in diplomacy style and representation (spin, etc) are also very important to run effective foreign policy.

With respect of your analysis of Baltic pipeline project, without commenting on its actual content you should have learnt by now that The Economist shares your view on political basis of this project. Hence it looks somewhat insane that you argue the point which is widely shared.

Factually, indeed at the end of 2005, Angela Merkel whilst visiting Moscow, invited Poland to join the project. Minister Naimski immediately refused to accept this invitation. In my view, it was a mistake: Poland did not have to spend a penny, but being a project member could have worked to frustrate it. It is a widely acknowledged technique that if you want to frustrate a project you become its most devoted enthusiast in order to gain a maximal control of it (even possibly upper hand). Of course, this technique may not have achieved the ultimate goal on Germans and Russians (i.e. stopping construction of the pipeline), but it would make the project so much harder (costly: in all sense of this word).

When Poles said “NO” to Merkel, Putin most likely had a simple line to her: “Look YOU invite them to start talking and YOU do not even get it. Just forget these clumsy Poles.” I only let you think about Merkel’s inner thoughts on that.

You should also note that this article (“Gordon Brown’s Polish streak”) is pretty good for the Polish government: Gordon Brown is an acknowledged political world-class heavyweight. (The fact that you may or may not agree with him would be another matter.) This comparison and contrast (which you may or may not agree with) helps the Polish government with image abroad. The underlying message is: despite the fact that a very sound Polish foreign policy is projected in a rather clumsy way abroad, Poland is as good (or as bad) as any other nation. The UK is widely acknowledged as a benchmark for a civilized democratic country. (You may or may not agree with this statement: I am cynically agnostic about it, having watched Tony Blair’s political shenanigans in the last 10 years.)

To summarise:
1. You should read more carefully. Don’t be prickly to a fault. The role of a journalist is to catalyse thinking. EL did not have to much luck on that with you as a reader.
2. It looks rather odd if you argue a point that your “opponent” (EL) agreed with from the outset. I write no more on that.
3. You should be rather more polite: an aggressive and offensive language does not help the Poles image (nor indeed anybody). If you wrote a private e-mail to EL, be as offensive as you wish. He may just bin it. But please do not subject us, other blog readers, to a lesson of shear discourtesy.

Best wishes


Kuba said...

Helo Greg,

Thank you,

May I ask: -
What is your title to regulate me?
Are you personally offended? What was it that offended you?
Are you representing Mr.Lucas in this legally or in any other way?
What do you mean: ‘most bloggers’, ‘us bloggers’ – who is ‘we’?
What is the source of your knowledge about public standing in relation to my posting?
What is your measure for ‘offensive’- I find your tone and your assumption that you can set the standards and go as far as defining what is good and what not for “image of the Pole abroad” is deeply offensive by my standards while I would not mind if you called me an idiot pointing to a mmistake that I would have made.?
Courtesy? I reserve that for the people I respect – that means the whole world minus those who have lost the right for respect.
I may not be courteous – I am harsh, but for a good reason. Am I offensive? – No. I am being blunt and I do not beat about the bush. What I take out to light may not be beautiful and indeed is offensive – I –first -feel offended by it and that is why I am harsh.

Then, tell me:

Is a man worthy of respect who holding position of public trust as as a source of information; senior editor of international newspaper which is valued for its rectitude and reliability (deservedly, in general) deliberately and persistently distorts the truth in all aspects beginning with biased and manipulated presentation of facts so that their textual representation widely different from the actual (see survey, chapter on politics, fragment about the conflict J.Kaczynski-L.Balcerowicz at:

to see how far this practice has gone, provided you have the real course of events in your head to compare) – I am talking facts, not sympathy for this or that politician – to individual slander and defamation (see in :“Turning of…” the sentence about Mr Macierewicz and the alleged ‘private service’ he has created tospy on private errand for Kaczynsk, then see the blog here:

for the remark “nuts and incompetent” about the same Mr M, further here:

to read about intimidation. Read also how sleazy is the way E.L tries to avoid giving substance in the comments)
Is such person - whose productions have not yet found their end before the court only because of the screaming unprofessionality of public relation services in my country - worthy of respect, I ask you?

I shall add to that that I have repeatedly sought explanation from Mr. Lucas and bade him present any verifiable evidence – never have I obtained anything other than rephrased reiteration of what hee had expressed originally and the only kind of grounding for these I was able to extract from him was his anonymous sources;

I do not insist on naming them, but I see no reason why he is reluctant to quote anonymously the particular individual accounts by first-hand witnesses to a situation of intimidation toward anyone involving the prime minister or president of Poland!

I do not expect E.L to start praising instaed of bashing, to start to like what he dislikes and his self-inspired changes in tone on this or that aspect of reality have no relevance. It has no relevance if a picture is bad or good as long as it is truthful. E.L – persistently – is not.

Is that so hard to comprehend and so uniquely Polish that I want the truth and some decency?

Do you expect me to show reverance and courtesy toward a man whose hand I would not shake?
Now, as to the rest, I have only this to say:
- read more carefully is best suited advice for you just now: then you might see that I have not uttered a word on any of the issue you set out to defend or refute! I was referring to the one and only paragraph about ‘gains’ Poland would enjoy if the offer from the Germans was accepted – and only to this!
- Out of 48 lines of your post 8 are relevant!
- 8 relevant lines contain your concept of “frustrating the project” (how does that translate into the real terms?) which is rather feeble as re-inforcement to the thesis if not overtly ‘insane’;
- I was not making no other argument than this: it is weird to admit the the deal is biased anti-Polish scheme and bash Polish government for not joining it – and I completed it with an appendix of some facts for those who are not familiar which you have mistaken as argument and proceeded to call it ‘rather insane’…
- No, it is not the first job of a journalist to catalyse - the first is to tell the truth. Once he has met that, he can catalyse all he wants: you, in fact, might want to look around for the catalytic effect from someone else: you badly need it and E.L is not likely to stop lying so it might take a while.
- You (and your likes in all disputes of these matters) love to repeat that Polish foreign policy is “projected in a clumsy way, etc.”. but you have yet to produce a single piece of evidence other then the talking of other wise men…some line of reasoning that would exceed the cocktail level of your current criticism or was not laughable from the start (sorry, but ‘frustrating the project’ with Poland, Germany and Russia is indeed laughable…) Until you do, shall continue to view this as your more or less consciuos irritation that Poland is ruled by people who act on the principles of Polish interests and not Brussel’s, their own or anyone’s

Greg said...

Dear Kuba

Let me quote you: “Courtesy? I reserve that for people I respect”. This is where I fundamentally disagree with you. If you had been properly brought up, you would have been taught to behave with courtesy to everybody (even to people that do not offer it to you).

You should note that you are a guest on EL blog. He allows you to publish your views, and because of his standing, you are quite widely read. If you had set up your own blog where you would have been discourteous to EL, I would not have been bothered to write to you. There are plenty of all sorts of odds and sods in the cyberspace. But because you are EL guest on his blog than you owe him courtesy (even if you were not brought up properly).

Interestingly I agree with many points you raised. Your thoughts seem to be quite relevant. However your presentation is of someone who is mildly deranged. (Forgive me this comment, but this is an impression you convey quite vividly.) This appears not to be dissimilar to the current Polish foreign policy handling: whilst the basis is sound, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

You should also read more of the British press and realise that it is an Anglo-Saxon tradition to be critical of authorities. The tabloids do it in pretty much your way (“Up yours Delors”, “Byers lier, pants on fire”), broadsheets and serious press (like The Economist) are more subtle. You are bringing a Daily Star (or even The Sport) presentation style into a serious blog. This creates an impression of a lager lout, who by chance or purposely, ended up in a classical music concert. Spare us your performance. (Note: some larger lout have interesting thought too. However their style makes them socially unacceptable.)

Above all, the greatest disservice you are doing is to your own thoughts, if they are genuine. You also damage the image of Poles. I decided to communicate with you since I am also a Pole and I share many of your views. Hence I am displeased that you – through your rather unacceptable style – are damaging ideas that we should try to convince others to, and not use them as a pretext to insult others (who have the right not to agree with us).

Last but not least you noted and accepted my comment that it is an acknowledged tactics of becoming an enthusiast of a project thereby taking as much control over it as possible in order to frustrate it. You seem to be such an uncritical zealot of the current Polish government (which I support) but who projects their “interest” in a rather unorthodox manner. It transpires – does it not? - that you DO NOT support the current Polish government, but you are using the afore mentioned tactics in order to show a rather distorted picture of the current government supporters: discourteous, fanatics and, frankly, mad. This bring the idea of supporting the Polish government into serious disrepute.



PS. No problem, I indeed took your advice to me to read more carefully.

Kuba said...

I have said all I have to say, so - in contrast to you I shall not waist time rephrasing. All my good will has been depleted by the previous post.
Nor am I going to ping pong your ever more personal remarks - not because I feel offended, but because I could not possibly care less about what you think of me and as little about anything else in connection to you. After all, having you repeat the same thing with the same defective thinking three times is a bad prognosis for anything new in the fourth, am I right?
...even now munching the same pulp for too long, has made you become completely obscure - Listen to yourself:
"... You seem to be such an uncritical zealot of the current Polish government (which I support) but who projects their “interest” in a rather unorthodox manner. It transpires – does it not? - that you DO NOT support the current Polish government, but you are using the afore mentioned tactics in order to show a rather distorted picture of the current government supporters: discourteous, fanatics and, frankly, mad. This bring the idea of supporting the Polish government into serious disrepute"...
what can I say?...I know: the clarity leaves a lot to be desired...
In fact, I could extract a good deal of decent fun from your huffing and puffing. You are asking to deflate you...
Instead, I am going to do you a favour:
Do you have any idea how the phrase "rather unacceptable" or "this appears to be dissimilar" actually sounds like? nobody ever told you? sounds like you were trying to bounce with half-flat rubber ball... you trip over every other sentence,as you get steamy ("convey..impressions...vividly")That is a friendly advice before you some day start wondering where do all the giggles come from

ps. Your idea of a blog is pretty much as totally whack as your notion of proper dispute! No, it is not quite the same as a home visit - it is more like when you leave an open book for people to jott down impressions... you would like to have it watermarked on every page with; "kind remarks only" - what's the purpose?
E.L by setting up this blog does not open his heart and soul to us - visitors. He presents only a fraction of his life - professional life, at that. Moreover, dispute with whomever spiteful spirits might throw his way is part of his profession - it most certainly is central to the idea of the blog.

Go figure before you go out on a finger-wagging mission again...

Kuba said...

....wo a wenkah' - is this not how they would put it in a Big Smoke?...

Greg said...

Dear Kuba

I do not think your mother is proud of your good self...

...with this, I rest my case.



Kuba said... mother? ...I dread to think what would have been next as your acute argument had gotten still acuter...

Greg said...


Happy Easter