Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Polish-Russian rapprochement? Probably not.


The above article is entitled “Poland angry at Soviet war role.” It is subtitled, “Polish President Lech Kaczynski has voiced his anger at the Soviet role in World War II at commemorations marking the beginning of the global conflict.” I’ll quote from this article and comment below.

“In front of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, Mr Kaczynski said the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact had divided Europe.

“At an earlier event in the port city of Gdansk, he had described Russia's actions as a "stab in the back".

“. . . Speaking at the dawn ceremony, Mr Kaczynski, referring to the occupation of eastern Poland by Soviet forces a fortnight later, said: ‘On 17 September... Poland received a stab in the back... This blow came from Bolshevik Russia.’

“. . . Mr Kaczynski said the Soviet-German pact, signed a week before the first shots were fired, had divided Europe into areas of influence and had preceded a conflict which caused the deaths of 50 million people.

“He also recalled the Katyn massacre of 1940, in which 20,000 Polish officers were killed by Soviet secret services, saying it was an act of chauvinism and in revenge for Polish independence.

“For 50 years Moscow blamed the Nazis and only admitted responsibility in 1990, but Russian courts have ruled it cannot be considered a war crime.

“Mr Putin, in his speech after Mr Kaczynski, said all pacts between European states and Nazi Germany were "morally unacceptable," including the 1939 Nazi-Soviet accord.

"All attempts to appease the Nazis between 1934 and 1939 through various agreements and pacts were morally unacceptable and politically senseless, harmful and dangerous," Mr Putin said.

"We must admit these mistakes. Our country has done this."

“He also said that improved relations between Germany and Russia since the war should be an example for improving Russian-Polish relations.

"’We sincerely want Russian-Polish relations to get rid of the accumulated legacy of the past... and to develop in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and co-operation - that is to say, to be worthy of two great European peoples,’ Mr Putin said.”


Is this a step toward a admitting Russian war-crimes against Poland? Is this an admission of the truth about what the USSR did to Poland during WWII? The BBC article doesn’t permit that conclusion, but one is encouraged by Putin’s saying “all pacts between European states and Nazi Germany” were “morally unacceptable” but that isn’t the same thing as an apology?

A Christian Science Monitor article (http://features.csmonitor.com/globalnews/2009/09/01/putin-walks-a-fine-line-in-poland-avoiding-apology/ ) describes Putin as “walking a fine line.”

The CSM correspondent Fred Weir writes, “Russian experts say Putin probably went as far toward meeting Polish demands as any Kremlin leader could, given that Russia is currently in the midst of an intense domestic battle over the nation’s past.

“’I think Putin was conciliatory,’ says Roy Medvedev, one of Russia’s leading historians on the Soviet period. ‘It was a step forward, considering that we haven’t had any high-level contacts with Poland for a dozen years.’"

But Weir concludes his article with the following: Whatever progress Putin may have achieved on the historical front in Gdansk Tuesday might have been undone by the publication on the same day of a book of “secret documents” released by Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service.

“The volume, entitled ‘Secrets of Polish Policy 1935-1945,’ purports to document plans by Poland to join Nazi Germany in an invasion of the USSR in the years before World War II and also details Poland’s minor but actual role in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia following the Munich accord in 1938.

“This is all part of an old Russian game,” says Mr. Felgenhauer. ‘Putin wants to portray himself to the West as a liberal who’s surrounded by wolves back in Moscow, but it’s really business as usual.’”

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