Polish-Russian relations are showing outward signs of strain following the weekend’s memorial to commemorate last year’s Smolensk plane crash. Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw, refused to attend
, and was apparently supported in his snubbing by a small core of supporters who see Prime Minister Donald Tusk as a traitor for siding with Moscow. To make matters worse, a memorial plaque at the site of the crash has been edited
to remove a previous reference to the Katyn massacre, which Kaczynski was on his way to commemorate when his plane crashed. The official reason for the change is that the plaque wasn’t bilingual before, but certain commentators don’t like the implication that the plaque was changed to remove all hint of Russian blame.
RIA Novosti last week ran an interesting piece suggesting a few reasons for the current remaining barbs between the two, despite an overall massive improvement in relations. The report focused on long-standing Polish bitterness
towards Russia, which it describes as having reached an ‘Arctic chill
‘ during the time of the Kaczynski twins.
Current developments between Moscow and Warsaw should be viewed in the context of the preceding, difficult, period when Poland was ruled by the national-Christian Law and Justice party with all its Russo-phobia and anti-German rhetoric. The current government inherited a foreign policy in ruins.
The Kaczyńskis’ rule was a particularly strained period in bilateral relations. The late President Lech Kaczyński and his twin Jaroslaw caused an Arctic chill to descend over relations with Russia: Poland demanded missile defense facilities be deployed on its territory, moved to block the EU-Russia agreement on strategic partnership and even interfered with Russia’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Moscow paid Warsaw back in kind by imposing restrictions on Polish imports. Then the Poles perceived the Nord Stream project as encroaching on the country’s energy security. The anti-Russian sentiments fuelled by the Law and Justice party struck a chord with a considerable segment of Polish society. Luckily, by the end of 2007, a coalition of the liberal Civic Platform and the Polish Peasant Party had come to power.