Friday, August 12, 2005

More trouble in the east

As we have already seen the relationship between Poland and Belarus has been deteriorating steadily. It seems the relationship between Poland and Russia, a fraught one, historically speaking, is also deteriorating.

President Putin was not best pleased when President Kwasniewski (together with President Adamkus of Lithuania) had ensured that democratic elections would take place peacefully in Ukraine last December.

Russia came out of that affair extremely badly, shown to be high-handed and incompetent at the same time. In many ways, that was Putin’s own fault. He began his interference in Ukrainian electoral politics before the actual election campaign had started, summoning then President Kuchma and issuing orders on who should be the successor. He went on interfering, thus annoying many Ukrainians who might, in different circumstances, have felt pro-Russian.

That is quite bad enough. But to interfere and threaten without intending to carry out those threats is foolish to the point of absurdity. The tanks did not roll and Putin was left with egg on his face.

Naturally, he cannot be expected to see matters in that light. As far as President Putin and the siloviki around him are concerned, it was all those dam’ Poles and Lithuanians what did it.

The most recent spate of trouble started on July 31 when three children of a Russian diplomat were attacked by a gang of about 15 in a Warsaw park and had their mobiles stolen. Allegedly, the gang shouted anti-Russian slogans, not a difficult thing to imagine in Poland.

President Putin called it “an unfriendly act” and demanded an apology from the Polish government, who expressed regret but refused to apologize, maintaining, probably correctly, that this was a criminal not a political act.

The criminal is always political in Russia. On August 3 a Polish diplomat was beaten up in Moscow and on August 7 another one, this time just down the road from the Polish embassy.

Today comes news that Pawel Reszka, the Moscow correspondent of the Polish daily, Rzeczpospolita was beaten up not far from his home in a fairly upmarket part of Moscow. According to him, the attack was very similar to those on the diplomats.

President Kwasniewski has appealed to President Putin, calling on him to stop the attacks and to ensure that Poles in Moscow live safely.

“The dangerous incidents of recent days create a climate of tension in Polish-Russian relations and cause a harmful escalation of distaste.”

Very true, of course, and precisely the sort of situation Poland had hoped to avoid by joining the EU. What, one wonders, has happened to that body? Why is it not making any statements? Presumably, as ever, when it comes to matters on its own borders the EU has no opinion and assures everyone that this is a bilateral matter.

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