Thursday, July 05, 2007

Duck shoot


A swamp of paranoid nostalgia

Jul 5th 2007

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Grumpy diplomacy hurts Poland most of all

YOUR family is kidnapped by a cult that murders your best and brightest, steals your money and tries to brainwash your children. Eventually, it collapses and you are free—if a bit batty and scruffy after years of captivity. Your relatives have lived well in the meantime. You expect warmth, sympathy and generosity. But they sneer at your backward habits and treat you as an outsider. If you want to join the family (or rejoin, as you see it) you will have to fit in. And you had better be humble and grateful.

That, roughly, is the source of the misunderstanding between Poland and the old democracies of Europe. Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twins who are the country’s president and prime minister, are outraged that the European Union is treating Poland as a new member of a club. Of course Poland won’t meet all the EU’s standards (and, the Kaczynskis note, many old members break them too). But does not western Europe owe it a huge moral debt? The twins almost brought a recent EU summit to a standstill by insisting that a new treaty give smaller countries greater voting rights, rather than have such rights determined directly by population size.

The treaty favoured by western European countries would have given Germany the most votes—a fact that sat poorly with another singular but deeply held belief in Poland: that Germany must still atone for the second world war. Germany’s notorious closeness to Vladimir Putin’s Russia under Gerhard Schröder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, added insult to injury. First Germany murders millions of Poles. Then (telescoping history a bit) it tries to short-change Poland on EU voting rights. Even worse: when Poland tries to negotiate toughly (just as other EU members do) it is patronised and abused for being “prickly” and “obstinate”. That, Poland insists, verges on the racist.

It is hard not to sympathise with the Poles on some points. Western Europe has indeed been grudging, timid and hypocritical in its dealings with the former captive nations. The first reaction to the collapse of communism was to erect trade and visa barriers, not to welcome the kidnapped victims into the common European home.

But as with so many things, the Kaczynskis’ views are frozen in the past, and their logic is based on misunderstandings. To say “something very negative is happening in Germany”, as Jaroslaw Kaczynski did in a recent radio interview, is monstrous. It would have sounded mad and silly even when Mr Schröder was in charge. Angela Merkel, the present chancellor, is tremendous: the best-placed friend that east Europeans could wish for. It is most likely the only time that someone who grew up under communism will run one of the big Western democracies.


The troublesome twins

It is true that Germany’s politics are still too Russia-centred. But Mrs Merkel is struggling to unpick that, quite successfully. Poland could help her by offering friendship. The deal is blindingly obvious. Poland’s leaders could say, “we will support you inside the EU, to make it easier for you to support us against Russia”. Instead, the Kaczynskis prefer to wallow in a swamp of paranoid nostalgia, in which Germany and Russia are enemies of an equal hue.

Obviously, hard bargaining is sometimes necessary: even the best friends in the EU haggle like mad. But wise negotiators can talk nicely too. After the bruising EU summit in June, Poland could have been gracious in victory—they succeeded in delaying the new voting system’s implementation for a decade—but instead the Kaczynskis were grudging and ungrateful. Ireland’s diplomats are renowned for getting what they want. But their logic and persistence are laced with charm. They do not try to wrongfoot their British counterparts by suddenly raising historical atrocities. They stick to deals.

The Kaczynskis have won a battle. But they risk making Poland as Greece used to be: unpopular, expensive and, most dangerously, marginal. Perhaps only America can persuade the avowedly Atlanticist twins that a strong Poland in a strong EU is hugely preferable to a marginalised Poland in a weak one.


antyx said...

Is a purely population-based representation system really in Western Europe's interests, in the long run? If the EU intends to absorb the likes of Ukraine and Turkey in the future, Old Europe is likely to lose its numerical advantage.

Also, Poland has naturally fallen into the role of the main representative for New Europe, the only country among the ten new members of 2004 that had the Europarliament numbers to actually demand things. Its behaviour may be less than optimal, but isn't it good to at least have that attitude present?

White Crow said...

And why, pray tell, would the following be of any interest to Germany?

"The deal is blindingly obvious. Poland’s leaders could say, “we will support you inside the EU, to make it easier for you to support us against Russia”.

What does Germany have to gain from supporting Poland against Russia?

Fortunately, no German politician will be capable of engaging in such a policy. The German business community is, thank God, influential enough to prevent such ideological madness from happening.

It seems that Poland is quite alone in its rabid Russophobia (Estonia doesn't count), since Hungary, for example, seems to realize that what really matters are reliable energy supplies - and as long as erratic Ukraine cannot prove to be a reliable transit country, it is better to cut out the middle man and deal with those who are willing and able to be reliable partners: Russia.

Colleen said...

white crow, I agree.

Pundits are trying to feed us these thing ideas of a new Cold War, a new Iron Curtain, etc. etc. etc.

The only thing to write about is that countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia are absurdly living in unwarranted fear of Russia (and Germany?). They are either paranoid or acting-out a ruse to instigate Russia (and assuming that NATO/EU will stick up for them if Russia reacts).

"We will support you inside the EU, to make it easier for you to support us against Russia" is simply lol

The good thing is that the number of FSU/Warsaw Pact states graduating from this ludicrous state of paranoia and fear is increasing and Hungary is a good example. Moldova, Latvia, Azerbaijan, and Bulgaria too. Even Georgia has shown some mature behavior recently (and of course the Central Asia states were never problem from the beginning).

In my opinion, there's nothing to fear! (but fear itself)

Emil Perhinschi said...

The Poles are only negotiating.

I wonder if the EU money going into Poland are covering the EU tithe Poland pays. Also, I remember that Polish products don't have an easy time getting to the EU market (farmers and fishermen in the West get offended by competition).

Maybe it's time to acknowledge we were not "captive nations" that got freed. Maybe it's time to acknowledge we just lost the Cold War, and suck it up until we're able to get better conditions.

antyx said...

What does Germany have to gain from supporting Poland against Russia?

To quote 'Yes, Minister': re-admission to the human race.

Hungary, for example, seems to realize that what really matters are reliable energy supplies

Hungary's torn down Soviet war memorials long before Estonia started talking about it. Applying any sort of "reliable" qualification to Russia is wishful thinking bordering on ignorance.

In my opinion, there's nothing to fear! (but fear itself)

Almost as good a line as "peace in our time".

White Crow said...

flasher said

"To quote 'Yes, Minister': re-admission to the human race."

So unless Germans support the Poles against the Russians they are not part of the human race?

What do you suggest shall be done with these non-human Germans then unless they support the Poles?

So? said...

So what's the evidence of Russia's unreliability?

White Crow said...

"So what's the evidence of Russia's unreliability?"

So far -- none. It's all in the mind of people who absolutely want to see evil in anything Russia does.

"Russian power is dangerous for Europe" is not a conclusion but an axiom, as is more than evident from what is written on this blog.

So? said...

"Russian power is dangerous for Europe" is not a conclusion but an axiom, as is more than evident from what is
written on this blog.

Dear White Crow,

How can you possibly call yourself a European if you are not at least weary of that bear-riding, balalaika-playing, perpetually drunk asiatic (minus work
ethic) horde? After all, Poland (and the Balts) almost perished defending the West from these Byzantines. We should be forever grateful to them. If not for Solidarity, the Pope, Balts holding hands, the West would still be under Soviet military threat. I really don't get you Russophiles. I really don't. You should get better re-acquainted with the history of the place. I can suggest the following objective authors: Robert Conquest, Richard Pipes, Anne Applebaum, Anna Politkovskaya, Norman Davies, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Yuri Felshtinsky just to start off with.

White Crow said...


I love your sense of humor. I almost thought you were serious:)

antyx said...

So unless Germans support the Poles against the Russians they are not part of the human race?

If Germans support Russia against the rest of Europe - they're assholes.

So what's the evidence of Russia's unreliability?

The fact that the economy is entirely dependent on fossil fuel exports, spending is enormous, the cost of living in the big cities is preposterous (while the provinces languish, with the exception of oil-bearing regions like Surgut or Khanty-Mansiysk), the population generally have no savings to speak of, and every bit of stability in the country is based on the personal authority of the president, whose term ends next year. For starters.

YM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
White Crow said...

flasher t,

besides the clear analysis you provide, your finely honed language skills and discriminating vocabulary amply illustrate the quality of your thinking.

Please, do enlighten us more about how things really are in Russia.

So? said...

Please, do enlighten us more about how things really are in Russia.

Dear white crow,

My disguided Russophilic friend. All your questions shall be answered here:

It's the first thing I read in the morning. Yes, it's that good.

White Crow said...


just for the record, I'm not a Russophile. Philias and Phobias tend to be mental diseases that make it impossible for people to accommodate information in a manner allowing for an incremental improvement of understanding.

The best example for this are the psychopaths who run LaRussophobe.

White Crow said...

I'm outta here, by the way. Poka.

So? said...

Dear white crow,

if you are not against them, you are not with us, and if you are not with us, you are against us. It's as simple as that.

Now back to West-Moskovia relations. It is clear that Russia is incapable of running her vast territories and is a poor steward of her natural wealth (her only wealth, really). Nature's bounties are not spread equally. Russia does not allow Western companies to efficiently extract her resources. She does not wish to be a member of the EU and is by definition an anti-Western country, harbouring imperialist motives towards her former colonies, no doubt fuelled by Soviet nostalgia and petrodollars. So really, the current situation is tantamount to economic warfare with energy supply and pipelines wielded as political weapons! Thus the only reasonable course of action is the Yugoslavian solution, where the West successfully checked Serbian imperialism, turning Serbia into an almost normal country that desires integration with the West via EU and NATO memberships. So we must help the oppressed nations of Russia to reawaken their national identities. Further, Russia's nuclear nuclear deterrent is in freefall, whilst the American arsenal, though shrinking as well, is getting more and more accurate and survivable (Trident D5 SLBM has 60m CEP). The fact is, even conventional cruise missiles and precisions munitions dropped by stealth aircraft are now so precise and in such abundance, that you would not even need many nuclear weapons to knock out Russia's arsenal. ICBMs and bombers can be caught on the ground. The mobile launchers are few, hardly ever go on patrol and do so in treaty-defined areas. Ditto for submarines. The 1-2 subs they may have on patrol are probably tailed by 10 American ones. So even if they managed to shoot off a couple of missiles, they'll be taken care of by missile defence (thank you Poland!), and the rest will probably not even work due to shoddy Ruskie engineering and workmanship. So yeah, it's definitely doable. The country can then be divided into sectors of responsibility. Say, the North to the Brits and our valiant Baltic allies. The Southstans to Turkey. The lion's share ie. Siberia, to the country that shouldered the burden of the campaign and is by far the best steward of natural resources, - USA. The Far East - to Japan. The heartland - Germany, Poland and others to be determined. Which will most like leave out the French, since if you don't participate in operation Russian Freedom, you are not entitled to any rewards!

To those bleeding-heart closet pinko communists that think such a war is immoral, I will point out that the situation would be no different than Hitler attacking Russia in a pre-emptive war to protect the Western civilization from the Red Horde! Now if you are not going to believe me, your might as well be arguing with Mart Laar - the ex-President of Estonia who turned the place from a Soviet dump into a Nordic paradise!! (Man I really wanna come back as an Estonian cop in my next life. Flaxen blonde undercut hair, blue eyes, 6'4" and 245, wide at the shoulder, and narruh at the hip, so the russkies know not to give me no lip, busting russkie heads, starring in swedish-themed sauna movies in my time off... I digress... It's all nonsense, of course. Since I plan to live to a 100, there'll be no russkies left in Estonia by my next life! Hahah! Unless, of course, Estonia participates in operation Russian Freedom. There'd be plenty of work for Esti police in Northwest Russia then.)

The stakes are huge. As Flasher_t mention, Russia is the sick man of Eurasia. If we do not liberate it, the Chinese will.

White Crow said...

I guess I'm back for a moment. Nif... I thought you were kidding at first, but it seems you're not. IF you are indeed serious, you are insane. I'm glad that the only influence in the world you probably have is writing on your blog. May a merciful fate keep it that way, because there are enough psychopaths in power already. We don't need more of these.

And, yes, whoever you include in your "US", I'm against. Book me as your foe.

So? said...

Dear white crow,

Do you know why Putin tortured to death (the only way to describe it) Litvinenko, the best Russian to have ever lived? Sascha found direct evidence of Putin's involvement in 911. That's right the hijackers were trained in Russia! Just like that wily rat Stalin provoked Hitler into a pre-emptive war to defend the European civilization from the Red Horde (and ironically discrediting him in the eyes of the very people he was defending!), Putin is doing his best to mire the West in the Middle East. In the meantime he is using energy supply to blackmail poor Eastern Europe, yet to recover from 50 years of Russian tyranny, which cannot afford the extortionist prices that Russia is demanding. If anything, Eastern European countries are entitled to free gas from Russia as compensation for the terror and those ugly pipelines ruining the beautiful Polish countryside!

klx said...

i think all countries in the EU are simply entitled to be treated equally, if not as a block. the EU would buy a metric shitload of energy from russia, and at a price fair (if not affordable due to economic development) to all (dig ding alarm bells in moscow).

russia takes advantage of countries by playing them against each other. it's highly politicized commodities are their weapon, and it's the only one they need.

if the EU was worth the money paid by members, it would be the one negotiating contracts for russia's energy supplies.

i have as much distaste for russian imperialism as the next guy, and believe them in their current stance to be particularly threatening -- however, i think the EU needs to accept its fair share of the blame in being so damn disorganized and not "servicing" countries in such practical ways as securing reliable non-political energy from **A VARIETY** of sources.

problem is, it won't. germany and it's best bud russia are in a cosy casual relationship, and france still hasn't noticed (refuses to notice?) that the EU extends past luxembourg. while there is no political will at home, the EU will be divided in these practical ways.