Thursday, November 29, 2007

Polish conflict, not cohabitation, over Russia

The new prime minister, Donald Tusk, has announced that he will be dropping Poland’s opposition to Russia joining the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). President Lech Kaczynski complains that he has not been consulted, and only found out about this u-turn in foreign policy when he turned on the TV to watch the news.

And so we have the first spat in what will be a long running battle between president and government.

Presidents in Poland don’t have much of a role, day to day, but on foreign policy they do. The Kaczynski side is saying that by ignoring him, the new Civic Platform/Peasant’s Party coalition has acted unconstitutionally.

Platform’s Bronisław Komorowski responded that according to his interpretation, the constitution gives the government power to set foreign policy and stressed that it was premier and foreign minister who conducted Polish foreign policy, while the constitution only mentioned that the president should be consulted.

Well, they obviously forgot to consult him.

Relations with Russia – which goes to the polls in what looks like will be a not very free and fair election this weakened – have not been good over the last two years of the Law and Justice government, led by the President’s brother, Jarolsaw. When Donald Tusk was elected he vowed to improve them. So the OECD block will be dropped as a gesture of a more constructive Warsaw. Tusk obviously thinks it is better to have a bear in the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.

He’s probably right.

It’s clear that foreign policy, however, will be one of the main battle grounds in this awkward ‘cohabitation’. It was announced today that the former government’s foreign minister, the hapless Anna Fotyga, will now head the Presidential Chancellery. I don’t think Donald Tusk should worry too much about that, though. Being politically attacked by Fotyga - who will advise Kaczynski on foreign affairs - will be like being savaged by a dead poodle.

Much talk has turned to the OECD – an organization that few gave a thought to in Poland before. What does it do? Who is in it? Is Poland in it?

One group of Poles that should know, however, are the nation’s politicians. But when asked by journalists what, in English, the letters OECD actually stand for (in Polish it’s OWGR) the results, as you can see in this video clip (it comes after a few seconds of two guys talking in the studio), were rather amusing.

Though, saying that, I bet quite a few British politicians couldn’t tell you either.


Frank Partisan said...

The spat between the prime minister and president, trumps the content of what the spat is about. That must make good TV.

Anonymous said...

Beatroot said: “Tusk obviously thinks it is better to have a bear in the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in. He’s probably right.”

Just open a history book and you’ll find your wrong. The bear doesn’t share the tent but rather you are required to sit outside when he comes calling and present yourself as a target when he needs to go for a piss. Once pissed on express you complete satisfaction with the state of affairs. Then and only then the bear may be satisfied.

Both the President and Tusk swore an oath to Poland invoking God, seems ego has trumped any idea of duty and obligation. Both men are off side with their actions. When the Russians are confronted with a fractious and weak response to their aggression you can count on them to get even more aggressive. In the Russian mind there exists no respect for weakness but rather distain and disgust. Tusk’s actions will incite the Russians to even be more aggressive behaviour.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see that the Russians are no longer even interested in the pretence of democracy, no Potemkin villages for our Mr. Putin, here I am and fuck you. The foreign policy of old Europe (thus the EU) will look ridiculous after these upcoming elections in Russia.

As for Polish politicians not knowing what the OECD is, well no surprise must of these retards got on the party list by promising to kiss some ones ass rather than any claims of being a rocket scientist. When a politician does not have to stand for election in a riding and face the voters directly then any idiot will do just fine.

One can only hope that any future statues of Pilsudski have him looking up into the sky so he can avoid gazing upon Poland. That way we can avoid having him roll over in his grave from the anguish of seeing Poland run be little men of no consequence.

beatroot said...

But you know, we are in new times, Jan. In the old days it was Russia's military power that got it it's way. These days it is its resources. Now that means if you are a seller you got to have buyers. So they want to keep Europeans in geberal onside so as to create a market. Amd it's a good market. So instead of wars we will have trade wars and spats, for sure - but it is not the same as it was. Bullying will only get it so far. So maybe Tusk is right.

Anonymous said...

According to the OECD's own website, the organization is for advanced economic democracies:

"The OECD brings together the governments of
countries committed to democracy and the
market economy from around the world to:

• Support sustainable economic growth
• Boost employment
• Raise living standards
• Maintain financial stability
• Assist other countries' economic development
• Contribute to growth in world trade

The OECD also shares expertise and exchanges views
with more than 100 other countries and economies,
from Brazil, China, and Russia to the least
developed countries in Africa."

As Russia is neither an advanced economy nor a democracy, I don't see why it should be admitted as a full member.

beatroot said...

And is it a member of the WTO, which is a usual prerequisite? But anyway, this is realpolitik....and the EU wants them in, cause it wants decent deals on the oil and gas. It also thinks that it can control it within structures.

But essentially, OECD is a waste of space anyway, and not worth bothering about anymore. Like the Council of Europe.

Anonymous said...

Yes we are in new times, which in reality only means the mechanisms of projecting power have changed but the game remains the same. No longer are we concerned about tank columns head our way from the east, this has been replaced by using energy and resources as the mechanism for blackmail and intimidation.

The Russians want what they always wanted, a status quo that ensured their peace and security by means of an empire and buffer states that insulate Russia from any direct threats. They want their empire back and superpower status, which means good bye Belarus and the Ukraine.

The list of countries looking over their shoulders in anticipation of Russia’s next move is getting rather lengthy.

It’s not about economics in the normal sense; the Russians often talk about redirecting their resources towards China and elsewhere if Europe doesn’t get with the program.

The biggest mistake Europeans can make is to think they can deal with Russia as if it were some sort of Denmark, Holland or Belgium. With the notion that we will integrate them into our structures and life will be beautiful.

Russia’s ruling elite does not want the adoption of values and structures from the liberal democracies of the west and will use whatever means necessary to prevent it from happening.

Anonymous said...

So. yea, Putin is a real prick but the way to do battle with him and his ilk is not waged best by resurrecting a cold war mentality.

This is not the time to be stuck in the 1960s.

Isn't Gazprom stock available? Other Russian stocks?

And if you want to continue to isolate Russia, then you will make them more insolated and defensive and then you have your self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Gazprom stock available?

Sure it is. There's one problem though: the Russian government owns over half of those. Think you can get them to sell some to you?

Anonymous said...

I'm not expecting that Gazprom can be taken over. But think of the sitution in the US where China can cripple the economy because of all the money it has invested in stocks here. And even a small proportion of stockholders can be a major pain in the ass to those in control. What's the alternative? Keep excluding the Russians and rachet up tensions? Sorry, but that's a situtation where Poland will wind up being a fuckee. The US is not going to do much to help you unless some major oil fields are located in Bialystok. And I just don't see where Poland is going to be the tail that wags the EU dog.

Anonymous said...

Freaky though. After reading that Gazprom article (thanks deniedantecedent), there's that bit about Earl Browder's grandson being thrown out of Russia for being a pain in the butt. Earl Browder was a major player in the early days of the communist movement in the US:

One, two, many Earl Browder grandsons! (You yungins may not recall the slogan that I'm harkening back to... Old farts like BR probably do).

Anonymous said...

Whoa, even weirder are the ways of international capital than I imagined. This popped up after I was looking into an article referenced in the Wikipedia entry:

Hey, maybe I can become the new Armand Hammar and monopolize my arm and hammer on the box of baking soda that sits in everybody's fridge to absorb odors.

Anonymous said...

Oh no. Wikipedia claims that the arm and hammer on the box of baking soda was a coincidence and that Armand didn't own the company but only a very small share of stocks. I dunno. I find it hard to believe that an arm and hammer would have become the marketing symbol without his input. I was also told some years back that Armand is a rather common Swedish name and so I doubt that Mr. Hammer was named after the symbol of the American Socialist Labor Party as indicated in that same article. Too weird to be named after a symbol. Seems more likely that a symbol would originate in a name. Strange riddles.

Good interesting morning for me now thanks to deniedantecedent. I'm probably boring everybody to tears. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

So the existence of a state-controlled oil company is evidence of a country being a democracy? Even North Korea has a state oil company........

Putin's Russia is clearly the most dangerous enemy that Poland faces. As any schoolboy can tell you, the only thing that happens when you play nice to a bully is that you lose your lunch money without being beaten. In either case, you still lose your money.

Anonymous said...

So the other alternative you pose has you getting your money taken away and your ass whupped. How romantic! How Polish!

Don't forget that bully supplies something like over 80% of your gas, too. And can find elsewhere to sell that gas.

Not a good situation at all. But that doens't mean you should go out of your way to make things worse.

Anonymous said...

Unless Russia builds new gas pipelines and new LNG plants (very unlikely), it has no choice but to sell its gas to Poland and the rest of Europe.

The Russian economy is a one-trick pony, based completely upon sale of gas and oil. An expected and normal drop of oil prices to their historic levels will turn Russia back into the economic basket case it was in 1998, when oil sold for $10 a barrel on world markets. For the time being, the Putin bullyboy have the upper hand. But lacking a real economy, they are bullying neighbors only for the short term, and will shortly revert to a backwater.

And the answer to how the nerds beat the bully is simple - they stick together and refuse to be intimidated. The bullies at my secondary school are now all either dead, in jail, or on the dole. As Russia will be again soon.

Anonymous said...

geez said:

I'm not expecting that Gazprom can be taken over.

I'm not saying that it could, or should be. I'm just pointing out the fact that it is a government-owned enterprize and, as such, its policy will be determined by Vladimir Putin and not the shareholders. IOW, the fact that Gazprom has a publicly available stock is meaningless. Now beatroot is of course right in that to be a seller you gotta have buyers, and so it is a bit short-sighted to try and blackmail your customers with the threat of withholding merchandise. But the thing is, this is only short-sighted from the profit-maximizing perspective. Again, Gazprom is owned by the government; it is not trying to maximize profit. It's trying to maximize political influence.

beatroot said...

and will shortly revert to a backwater.

When that happens depends on oil price.

I agree with the one track pony - stuff. Many of the oil rich countries are like that.

But oil at ten dollars a barrel? Forget it. High price of oil is because demand is outstripping supply. That is because of China/India led growth. Those economies and this part of the world, will keep on expanding faster than the West, and that will keep prices high for the forseeable future.

Good thing is that with price of oil high, market looks harder for alternatives. Which is good for Giai and all that.

beatroot said...

it is not trying to maximize profit. It's trying to maximize political influence.

Yeah, every Russian you meet say that Putin is good because he restored national pride...' etc, so there is that element.

But profit and influence go hand in hand. If nobody is interested in your profit maker, you have no influence. The now in Russia are indivisible.

Anonymous said...

Russia... has no choice but to sell its gas to Poland and the rest of Europe.

Well, not necessarily to Poland but, yea, to the rest of Europe. Do Poles really expect the rest of Europe to stick together with them in opposition to Russia? Especially when it comes to oil and gas supplies given everybody's addiction to the stuff?

An expected and normal drop of oil prices to their historic levels will turn Russia back into the economic basket case it was in 1998, when oil sold for $10 a barrel on world markets.

I admit I've been talking a lot of crap that I'm largely clueless about to get some discussion going, but it doesn't seem to me that oil prices will be dropping anytime soon from anything I've read, a point BR also makes above. above.

About Gazprom, yea it is controlled by the govenment but it doesn't seem that it is completely controlled by Putin per se if his running buddy Hammer was run out of Russia on a rail. And there are banks and other stocks that "we westerners" can get ahold of which can put the squeeze on in all sorts of ways that can play themselves out over time. And not just in the sense of being against Russia and trying to control it.

Anonymous said...

It is utterly unrealistic to think that westerners can purchase significant assets in the Russian economy and there by have a restraining influence on the leadership of that society. This line of thinking completely ignores the trends in the Russian market place. Even in the most carefully controlled situations western companies and individual business people have been lawlessly pushed out of the market place. This has happen to large oil companies as well as individuals business people (some of whom were killed by their Russian partners). In an atmosphere of lawlessness and a judiciary that is not independent but rather under political control, it makes the conduct of normal international business relations impractical at this time.

Currently the EU states and Russia have a dispute concerning Russian businesses trying to buy some western assets to invest their oil cash, they are meeting increased resistance from western governments as their business people are being muscled out of the Russian market place.

Unity and resolve are the best way to confront Russian tactics, otherwise expect escalation.

Anonymous said...

This is not about economics and it’s not about Poland, it’s all about Russia its internal politics and it’s place in the world. The Russian leadership and elites of today are prisoners of their circumstances.

It is an overwhelming error in thinking to simply declare Russia is too backward as a society to have a functioning democracy so lets just live with the status quo. A huge portion of Russia’s educated look at the EU, see and accept what could be, a Russia strong, free and prosperous beyond anything it has seen in it’s entire history. But history has stuck a wrench into the works.

Putin rules today on behave of a small portion of Russia, those with the wealth and therefore all the power. These people fear democracy and the overwhelming mass of their own people who view them as the illegitimate holders of Russia’s wealth, stolen from the people during the period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Consequently the need to protect their position by the maintenance of a “managed” democracy. The problem however is being made worst by this “managed” democracy drifting into an authoritarian state and now completeting it’s path into a one party totalitarian state. Take note of the current Russian state glorifying the soviet past. How would you interpret Germany glorifying the Third Reich?

Russia no longer has an ideological glue to hold it together and communism isn’t coming back, so the leadership need a new glue and nationalism will do just fine. Adding to this the need to unite society, the manufacture of a few enemies always works well i.e. visible minorities, western democracies and Nato.

The ruling elites understand that if Belarus or the Ukraine became successful functioning democracies then their position would be untenable. As result they know their practical option is to prevent this and construct a cordon sanitaire around their state.

No easy fixes.

Anonymous said...

Considering how much time the Russian elite is spending in the West (Londongrad, The French Riviera, etc..), I doubt they are interested in any kind of standoff with the West. The anti-Western rhetoric is purely for local consumption. In Russia business and trade are not the extension of politics, rather the other way around. They are out to maximise profits not wield political influence in Poland, Belarus, etc.. What value is to be gained from political influence anyway?

Anonymous said...

It's completely unrealistic to think that Poland can huff and puff and scare Russia. Such huffing and puffing will ensure a rise in hostilities.

It may well be unrealistic now to expect that the west can take over and control Russian industries. But westerners can have an impact now and progressively more so in the future as more and more Russians eventually realize their their well being and prosperity is tied to an influx of foreign capital.

A confrontationist mentality on the part of Poland will not reap rewards but only conflict.

Anonymous said...

geez said...” A confrontationist mentality on the part of Poland”

Prudent self defence and resolve are not the equivalent of confrontation. Russia has attacked Poland’s sovereignty and there by authored the Polish response. You seem to ignore that this state of affairs exists in the relationship Russia has with a number of countries, are they all at fault for being “confrontationist”?

beatroot said...

But jan - though the EU has supported Poland of the meat ban, they have not gone along with the strident rhetoric of the Kaczynski's. In fact, throughout the EU there have been different interpretations of the line to take with Russia. The UK has a problem with the radiation poisoning in London, but even it has not gone down the direct confrontation route.

So there are many kinds of ways to skin a bear.

Anonymous said...

How exactly has Russia attacked Poland's sovereignty?

Anonymous said...

Geez said; “How exactly has Russia attacked Poland's sovereignty?”

First and foremost it refuses to accept that Poland is a sovereign state and acts in accordance with its policy of dealing with Poland as a vassal state that has temporarily escape Russian bondage. Russia’s position is that Poland has no right to engaged in supporting democracy and the expansion of Nato and the EU in the areas of the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia. Russian foreign policy is based on stopping Poland’s engagement with countries it deems as being within it’s exclusive sphere of influence and simultaneously isolating or driving a wedge in Polands relationship with it’s EU neighbours.

The methodology is simple:

-direct economic warfare with Poland (meat embargo etc)

-sabotage of Polish foreign investments through energy cut off

-a massive effort of subversion and espionage directed at the Polish state

-interference with transport on the Baltic coast

-using oil to make deals with western countries prepared to isolate Poland

-the treat of aiming weapons of mass destruction at Poland

-positioning advanced weapons systems in Belarus and Kalingrad

-instigating a campaign in Russia to demonizing Poles

-refusing to acknowledge the genocide committed against Poland

-state interference with a proper investigation of the Kaytn massacre

And it goes on!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I didn't know that...

First and foremost it refuses to accept that Poland is a sovereign state and acts in accordance with its policy of dealing with Poland as a vassal state that has temporarily escape Russian bondage.

... I just thought the clique that now controls Russia was pushing its own interests. BTW, there's also a recent interesting article in USA Today about the "caviar dreams" of the the noveau riche in Russia today:

Let the middle class develop and they will pose a challenge to the likes of Putin and his ilk. Or flash your sabres and piss them off and they will vote for Putin 'til whenever.

Anonymous said...

Geez said: “Let the middle class develop and they will pose a challenge to the likes of Putin”

There is no reason to suggest that it would be a certainty, if you look at China’s development the growth of the middle class has not had any effect on the ruling elite. You are free to make money but that’s where your freedom ends.

The article you cited suggested 55 million Russians are middle class this suggests a low thresh hold on what is meant as middle class. While five million families in Russia annually earn more than $30,000, according to the report of Rosgosstrakh insurer. Yes there is a rapidly growing middle class but whether it will want a political roll to play so long as material conditions improve is a big question. To quote a typical Russian view “When you have a car to ride in and things to buy – that’s freedom.”

Putin and company are the guardians of the stability and order that allows the moneyed minority to sleep soundly in their beds, while cohabitating with a nation of working poor that more often than not see their wealth as illegitimately held.

Foreign push and shoves with the Kremlin have no effect on the population or whom they vote for. Such reactions to external matters are orchestrated from the Kremlin that controls the nationalism volume dial and the enemy of the week list. There hasn’t been a spontaneous demonstration with regards to foreign affairs since before Lenin.

Anonymous said...

Well, not everyone has a car to ride in yet. And as far as things to buy go... gimme more, gimme more.

And China's middle class isn't even a decade old yet. Jeez. Such impatience.

Seems to me I recall demos about Chechnya. Came across this reference: Lev Ponomarev, head of the For Human Rights group and Moscow's leading organizer of antiwar demonstration... Ponomarev echoes a sentiment common among opponents of the Chechen war, saying face-to-face talks with separatists is the only way toward a real political solution...

And some other stuff:

I even seem to recall a coupla demos re. Afghanistan but my aged memory is fuzzy. Mothers in black babuszkas as I vaguely remember.

Again, I think all the sabre rattling causes the Russians to rally behind the likes of Putin and his ilk.

You want to boycott or whatever the Russians, fine. But remember that they have a historical memory of going through hardships prolly a whole lot harsher than you and who else????? can inflict.

BTW, a lot of the criticisms you make of the ruling class in Russia and China sound like they could be made of the ruling class in the US... and Poland, too?

Anonymous said...

geez said...” Seems to me I recall demos about Chechnya”

Chechnya is viewed by Russians as an internal matter and the west has obliged them accordingly by remaining relatively silent to the genocide perpetrated their by the Russians second time in the last 100 years. It seems that Chechens have been saved from complete extermination by their breeding habits more so then their prowess as warriors which is considerable.

Things other than foreign policy triggered the mothers’ issue during the Afghan war, the bodies were being sent home with complete disregard to proper identification, explanation and with a restriction of how they could be buried. They could not put on the tombstone the direct cause of death as being in action during a war. The families of those missing in action were also treated in a shabby fashion. These things sparked an outcry.

Reactions to Russia’s antics should be firm, unified and consistent and under no circumstances must they see benefit or gain advantage from their bullying and intimidation of the neighbours.

Anonymous said...


You are looking for a fight, where there is none.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said “You are looking for a fight, where there is none.”

Some dogs always seek the comfort of a master’s leash.

Anonymous said...

jannowak57 said..."Some dogs always seek the comfort of a master’s leash."

Good thing Poland has found America then.

Anonymous said...

Don’t struggle with the dictionary, reply in Russian

Anonymous said...

jannowak57 said..."Don’t struggle with the dictionary, reply in Russian"


Anonymous said...

Oh I get it, if I disagree with Colonel Wolodyowski #57, I am therefore a Russian.

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