Saturday, December 03, 2005

Katyn, Katyn, Katyn

From the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, an interview with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee, by Tomasz Bielecki. Some of Kosachev's remarks are eerily reminiscent of the European political climate of the 1930s:

30-11-2005, last update 29-11-2005 16:48

"And all one hears from Poles is Katyn, Katyn, Katyn"

”If you’d behaved towards Russia in a friendly way, we could have become partners. But you've been forcing Russia’s hand, and we must react appropriately to that,” says Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, in his interview with GW.

Tomasz Bielecki: How do you view this decision of the Polish Defence Ministry to declassify the documents of the Warsaw Pact?

Konstantin Kosachev: It’s a political provocation. Its goal is to reinforce this false conviction that the Soviet Union and Russia are the main source of the ill fortunes of Poland and modern Europe.

I don't think these documents would have to be classified forever, but they are the property of the former members of the Warsaw Pact, and we should be taking decisions about their declassification together. The ideal solution would be the declassification of NATO documents at the same time. Poland’s unilateral decision causes public opinion to have the impression that the Warsaw Pact was the only aggressor, the only source of threat.

But it wasn't like that?

If we're talking about historical truth, then NATO would also have to declassify its documents. In the conditions of the Cold War these kinds of military games were conducted by both sides. It surprises me that some Polish politicians have decided on such a crude provocation. This will be the next burden in Polish-Russian relations.

The next one after the North Pipeline, which Russia wants to build on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland and the Baltic countries?

Not all projects have to take the interests of all parties into consideration. The construction of the North Pipeline is beneficial for Russia, Germany and the EU. And Poland's objections? Excuse me, Russia will do what she thinks is beneficial for her. If Poland wants that we should take care of it for joint benefit, then she should take great pains to correct her relations with Russia. Why does Moscow have to show good will towards a country which behaves to us as an enemy?

The North Pipeline is a commercial enterprise that will allow Russia to diversify her sources of gas distribution. Economic interests are involved in the pipeline. Russia behaves cleanly and Poland in a dirty way, also because she politicises the issue of gas delivery.

You don't understand that Poland might be afraid of Russia, who for any political reason could turn off her gas tap for us?

History has ordained that Russia has huge fields of oil and gas, and at the same time Poland is a transit country between us and the West. If you’d behaved towards us in a friendly way, we could have become partners in the trading of our natural resources, but you’ve been forcing Russia’s hand, and we have to react appropriately to that. The North Pipeline will be built.

What kind of reaction would you expect from Russia if an American missile base were to be built in Poland?

And what could our reaction be? A very tough one. Russia sees the building of elements of this anti-missile shield near her border as a breach of the global system of nuclear deterrence. If that were to take place, it would be easier to shoot down our missiles and that means that our nuclear potential would be weakened. In those conditions any country would begin to strive to enlarge its power, to overcome its losses and to return to the former balance.

And that means a return to the arms race. The task of military men is to prepare for worst case scenarios, even for a nuclear conflict. It has been understood that according to such pessimist military logic, a country engaging in an endeavour like this shield increases its military risk. But, of course, it’s a sovereign decision of Poland. In my view, it wasn't properly thought out. The shield will be a serious factor in our relations.

What will Russia do about the new elections in Belarus? Is a quarrel brewing with Poland, if she engages in the support of democracy as she did in Ukraine?

If the new Polish government repeats the error of the old government, and announces that Belarus without Russia is better off than Belarus with Russia [an allusion to Aleksander Kwasniewski's statement on Ukraine], then we will react.

Though I wouldn't compare the situation in Belarus and Ukraine. There was a large resistance against the old regime in Kiev, but the authorities in Belarus have enjoyed huge support. I don't idealize Lukashenko, but let's just simply leave the Belarussians to choose. In Russia’s view, involvement by Poland in the internal matters of Belarus is unacceptable and uncivilized. So, if Poland tries to influence her sovereign neighbour in that way during the elections in Belarus, then we will relate to Poland as a country that uses unacceptable and uncivilized methods.

Public support for Lukashenka is the result of his monopoly in the media, and censorship. The mouth of the Belarussian opposition is being gagged. So, can the civilized neighbour remain silent in this situation?

I also want freedom of speech for the Belarussian media. But it's one thing to support the media, and another to appoint to the Belarusian throne candidates who have support from the outside. Russia will reply sharply to that.

What does it mean that Russia’s reply will be "sharp", "decisive", radical"? Will you shut off the gas and cut off the crude oil? Will you introduce bans similar to your embargo on Polish foodstuffs?

We won't send the Army to you. This ban on the import of meat was not political. I have also said that Russia does not want to politicise the issue of deliveries of oil and gas. On the subject of other means which are at Moscow's disposal, I am not going to talk right now.

Central European countries like Poland and Hungary have a feeling that Moscow wants to negotiate with the EU above the heads of its new members, that she wants to reach an understanding with Germany, France or Italy, but not with Poland

I wouldn't compare the situation of Poland with that of Hungary. Hungarians
are preparing to the celebration of their anniversary of 1956 [the Soviet invasion of Hungary], and at the same time they are maintaining normal relations with Russia, but from Poles all one hears is Katyn, Katyn, Katyn. You are giving Katyn the status of the main problem of relations with today’s Russia. In my view Katyn was not genocide, but that tragedy in Volyn [the Volyn massacre], for example, was. In spite of this, there’s not much talk about Volyn in the Polish-Ukrainian relations. That's pure politics.

We don't negotiate with the old Europe above the heads of their new members. Actually, on all issues the Poles send us to Brussels, and don't want any direct talks with us.

It seems that president-elect Lech Kaczynski does want this. He said that he is waiting for Vladimir Putin to come to Warsaw, and after that he will be able to go to Moscow.

That is one of the new Polish president’s first mistakes. Obviously, the order of visits can be discussed, but this is something that is usually done quietly, the world over. I can't speak for the Kremlin, but in my view Kaczynski's declaration has precluded a Polish visit by Putin for a long time. Privately: Public declarations of this kind are not made in order to invite someone, but to repulse the visit.

So, do you expect a further worsening of relations with Russia from the Polish authorities ?

In the near future, yes. I travel to Poland and I know that the Russophobic card is being played there, to divert society’s attention of society from the economic issues. However, I'm an optimist and I trust that pragmatism will win in the Polish Right.

Russophobia in Poland? I have the impression that it's rather Moscow that has been trying in her internal politics to scare Russians with past or invented enemies - the Balts, the Poles.

In my view Polonophobia [antypolonizm] is something of completely marginal importance in Russia.

(tr. by Marius,my minor editing)
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