Sunday, April 11, 2010

Katyn, Bishkek and You

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

When the Soviets invaded Poland in 1939 they rounded up military officers, civil administrators, suspected Polish "agents", clergy, people with college educations, everyone who might oppose the invaders.  Then they shot them.  The most notorious barbarity is today known as the Katyn Massacre, although there were many others.  Wiki has a horrifying article.  If you take the time to read it, read it to the end and take a good look at the pictures.

The Soviets blamed the Nazis for decades and who could defend the Nazis, who were guilty of more and worse?  It wasn't until the collapse of the USSR that the truth came out.  The original orders still exist and they bear the names Stalin, Beria, Mikoyan and Voroshilov.  There's no doubt, and Katyn was only part of a larger ruthless slaughter.

Today there are apologists for Katyn, even deniers, and those who insist upon an historical context to help explain it away.  They are the same sort of historically bewildered folks who deny the horrors of the Holocaust (hello Iran), the Armenian Genocide (hello prez), American slavery (hello Gov McDonnell) and the persecution of Native Americans (hello so many of us).  Winners write the history, I suppose.

Fast-forward to last Saturday morning.  The elite of Poland's government and military, its current political opposition and its past anti-Communist heroes - the very people whose predecessors were murdered by the Soviet NKVD - were en route to Smolensk, Russia, for a joint Russia-Poland memorial to those killed at Katyn.  It was to be a healing event for both nations.  Their plane crashed, killing everyone aboard.  Looks like pilot error, an elite pilot thinking he was better than his ground controllers.  It happens, and this isn't an unknown outcome of such hubris.  There is no suspicion of external forces.

Poland is bereft of leadership.  The PM is next in line but he has little political infrastructure left.  The power vacuum is immense.  Surely Putin sees opportunity in this, a chance to nudge Poland back into the Russian fold.  Watch for Russia to increase its influence in Poland.  Watch for us to let them.

Russia has stepped forward before.  The Prague Spring of 1968 incurred a massive Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.  In 2004 they poisoned the president of Ukraine with dioxin.  In 2008 they threatened to invade Poland over its US missile treaty.  That same year they invaded Georgia as well.  Invasions, threats and poisonings are just some of their tools.  Energy aggression is another, and a very effective and cheap one at that.  Russia is the main supplier of gas to northern Europe.

Russia seeks political turmoil in its neighbors and will foment it at its whim.  The latest example is the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.  Legitimate unrest has led to revolution there, with hundreds killed in the streets of Bishkek.  Russia will step in to defend its bases and citizens in the same way it stepped in to "save" its erstwhile citizens in South Ossetia, Georgia.  Watch us protest, then ignore.  Again.

Eastern Europe - Central Asia - the Caucasus - Cuba - Venezuela.  Russia isn't quiet.  Russia isn't sleeping.  Russia is coming soon to a country near you.

* * * * *

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia.  It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key.  That key is Russian national interests.

Winston Churchill

1 comment:

  1. I see why you would think that this could lead to Russian meddling in Polish politics but I think maybe Poland will be so upset over the incident that it may have the reverse effect and have then hating everything and anything to do with Russia. They were just making a tentative peace with the Katyan Massacre and now this? Even if it was totally pilot error, there will certainly be suspicions. It certainly does make Poland very unstable and ripe for exploitation.