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Fist Patriotism


Russian-Polish relations have gone to a new level - the level of a fist-fight.

About a week ago, Polish skinheads beat up three children of Russian diplomats in Warsaw. President Putin called this incident an inamicable act. With this, he stressed the hidden political motive of what happened and gave this act of violence a definitive role in Russo-Polish relations. So in Russia the parallel response followed: two unknown individuals beat up a member of the Polish embassy, who was hospitalized with a brain tremor.

The sudden worsening of the relations between Russia and Poland, which were already difficult due to historical reasons, began in autumn 2004, when Polands president, Alexander Kvasnievski, stepped out against the falsification of the results of the first ballot in Ukraine, and then played a key role in the negotiations to resolve the Ukrainian political crisis, in favor of Yushenko.

After that, the presidents of the two countries exchanged impartial statements. In the beginning, Alexander Kvasnievski took the liberty to doubt the degree of democracy in present day Russia. Then, in a traditional press conference on the overall results of the year, Vladimir Putin roughly advised his Polish colleague to have a look at what happens in his own country, instead of teaching Russia how to live. After the usual statements, gestures of ill will began. The Russian Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor dropped the case of the shooting of Polish military officers on Stalins order in Katyn. Kvasnievski refused to attend the festivities in Moscow marking the 60-year anniversary of the victory over the Nazis. Putin did not mention Poland in his solemn speech. Finally, Kvasnievski was not invited to the festivities in connection with the 750-year-anniversary of Kaliningrad, even though Poland is one of the closest neighbors of the Russian Enclave. Instead, another important neighbor, the German chancellor, was purposefully invited, as well as the president of France, which has no relation to this region whatsoever. In return, Poland unleashed a visa war against the residents of the Kaliningrad Region, by refusing visas to many of those whose main living comes from trade in Poland, under far-fetched pretexts.

In the eyes of the Kremlin, Kvasnievski was not only an important partner of the odious orange revolution, but he also looks like a key member of the belt of ill will that spreads along the European borders of Russia, from the Baltic states to the orange Ukraine.

The Kremlin for its part organized a real propaganda war against the main activists of this belt.

It is understood that president Putin cannot restrain himself from snubbing a foreign journalist or even a president and let go of the fact that Russian teenagers were beat up in Warsaw. That would damage his image of the cool president who fights for respect for Russia. The Kremlin ideologists see patriotic hysteria as an important factor in domestic affairs that consolidates the voting public on the platform of support for the authorities in power.

Yet from a strategic point of view this tactic is hardly profitable for Russia. The historical burden of Russo-Polish relations and the relations between Russia and the Baltic states is indeed heavy. Just take the partitioning of Poland, Katyn, and the annexation of the Baltic states. There are plenty of examples. However, the paradox is that in the context of strategic relations with Europe Russia has an interest to get rid of that burden. At the same time, the countries of the belt of ill will have an interest in constantly reminding of it, stressing their special role in Big Europe, by it.

The patriotic hysteria that the Kremlin ideologists chose to use only consolidates the belt of ill will and ensures it the moral support of Europe.

Russia has no real means of influence on its adjacent countries and therefore remains on the level of diplomatic wrangling. The country can only lose in European politics, being a hostage of the domestic demand to give Europe its gruel. Russia does not intimidate the most important members of the European Union.

Of course, as a wise politician, Putin would have to give up his domestic image of the tough guy. In relation to the Warsaw incident, he would have to declare that as Russo-Polish relations are already difficult enough, he cannot see in the escapade of some Warsaw ruffians anything more than savagery, that he cannot attribute any political significance to it, that the difficulty in the mutual relations of governments and countries is one thing, and what happens on the streets somewhere is a totally different thing, no matter what slogans are involved. There is no such thing as fist patriotism. Fist patriotism is the destiny of wretches.

[09.08.2005]

Source: gazeta.ru

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