POLAND: Barbarism of the XXI century*

Despite its many amazing achievements, the Soviet era created one fundamental problem: the fantastic preparedness of society for rapid archaization as soon as the constraints for this disappeared. The reason, apparently, is that the communist leaders tried to modernize the consciousness of the peoples in conditions of violence and total prohibitions, among which the prohibition to think turned out to be the most harmful.

After the straitjacket of Soviet socialist morality was thrown off, a consciousness at the level at the best of the beginning of the 20th century was revealed under it. If in Russia this problem is somehow compensated by the fact that the imperial tradition rejects any form of nationalism, then in Eastern Europe the cave worldview flourished in the most magnificent way.

The countries of Western Europe, which the Second World War greatly changed and became an occasion for deep reflection, long looked condescendingly at their acquisitions in the East. They even encouraged nationalism there, which they saw as an instrument of protection against a possible return of Russian influence. But if in small countries like Hungary, nationalist sentiments remain harmless to the outside world, then the same cannot be said about larger state entities.

When many of us followed the misadventures of several hundred refugees on the border of Belarus and Lithuania this summer, few thought that the second act of this drama would be even more tragic. Poland has found something to surprise those who believe in the ability of the modern state to a certain degree of humanity. Warsaw’s last striking achievement is the halting and turning back of the German convoy of humanitarian aid for refugees who are being kept at the border by the Polish authorities in inhuman conditions. German public figures apparently hoped that they would be able to show solidarity with the refugees suffering from deprivation. But they did not take into account that, crossing the eastern border of their country, they remain within the European Union, but move to a completely different historical era.

We see how thousands of refugees from the Middle East have been crowding on the border between Poland and Belarus for several days now, who want only one thing — to be allowed to go to Germany, where they expect to receive asylum. The origin of these people in this location is understandable — this is the lack of grounds for official Minsk to impede the movement of refugees towards their western borders against the background of the aggressive policy that Poland and little Lithuania have been pursuing against it for a year and a half.

The entire strategy of the European Union with regard to Minsk leaves no room for diplomatic dialogue with President Lukashenko, even if it is required by the most pressing security considerations. After they failed to repeat the Ukrainian scenario of 2014 in Belarus, confusion and disappointment in the West turned out to be so great that the answer was a complete halt in relations.

Under the conditions of total pressure, the Belarusian authorities have no grounds for restraint. For several months, the countries of the European Union have done everything to inflict maximum damage on them — including closing the passage through their territory of aircraft crossing the skies over Belarus. This behavior turned out to be politically erroneous in the context of the dynamics of Belarusian-Russian relations and simply insane from the point of view of the logic of international politics. Now Minsk is showing its neighbors in the West that it is impossible to isolate Belarus.

At the same time, the official Minsk perfectly understands who it is dealing with when it allows people fleeing from disadvantaged countries to use its territory. Neighbors of Belarus in the West are not Greece or Italy, where even more significant flows of refugees have been rushing for several years. But during this time, the problem has never provoked a serious crisis on an international scale, since Athens or Rome know how to resolve such issues within the framework of decency and civilized behavior.

But in Warsaw or Vilnius they don’t know this. How they would behave when faced with a massive humanitarian problem was evident in advance. But in the summer of this year, the Lithuanian authorities at least remained within the bounds of decency, attracted Brussels to their side and turned to the help of the European police services. Gradually, it was possible to direct the problem into a relatively civilized channel precisely due to the fact that geopolitically insignificant Lithuania is indeed an entity that is quite amenable to external control.

In the case of Poland, external institutional barriers to wildness do not work. It is a fairly large country by European standards with a population of almost 38 million and a self-confident foreign policy. A right-wing conservative party has long been in power in Warsaw, whose ideological associates have no serious place in the political spectrum of Western Europe or Russia. At the same time, the Polish authorities in their relations with Germany or France rely on the support of the United States, for which this country is a convenient «jumping-off airfield» in the event of a wartime approach in relations with Russia. Poland is not a member of the euro zone, which means that the «stranglehold» of the financial policy of the European Central Bank, where German cadres are in charge, does not work for it.

In such favorable conditions, a political culture flourished on the banks of the Vistula, which completely does not fit into the notions of humanism inherent in our time. And, most importantly, [this culture is] shared by the majority of the population, who threw off the colonial yoke of Russia and happily returned to their native 16-17th century. Within a few days, the Polish authorities managed to arrange an international crisis from scratch. Instead of quietly letting refugees into their territory and escorting them to Germany, they staged a military show with drums, which the whole European world is watching in confusion.

It would be naive to see only a humanitarian component in this whole heartbreaking story. Of course, the Polish authorities themselves put themselves in a position of impossibility to resolve the matter with Berlin and Minsk the way the Greeks resolved a similar issue with Erdogan several years ago. And it is unlikely that the Germans or the French are going to pay Lukashenko money to keep refugees, he does not need this money. The countries of Western Europe are quietly hoping that all this fuss will lead to a political crisis in Warsaw and, as a result, the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s party will fall. And the Belarusian authorities themselves are not saints at all, but cold-blooded politicians headed by their decisive president.

But despite the fact that national interests are above all in international politics, no one has canceled such things as simple humanism. Even if your opponent is wrong a hundred times and behaves like an insidious villain, this is not a reason to make the innocent suffer. This is probably why the actions of the official Warsaw these days were condemned even by the representative of the Roman Catholic Church.

Poland’s actions do not correspond to such categories as universal human values, regardless of who and why provoked the movement of refugees towards the border. It is quite possible that we will repeatedly encounter examples of such behavior — the plaque of civilization that emerged in the 20th century is not strong enough to withstand the storms of modern international politics. But the likelihood of further general savagery is not a convincing argument in order to come to terms with the return of the Middle Ages in its worst manifestations.


Timofei Bordachev, Program Director of the Valdai Club, 10.11.2021 / Source.

* This is not the original title. ALAFF changed the title of Timofei Bordachev’s article in connection with the shocking savagery of the actions and statements of the Polish leaders in relation to defenseless refugees. Looking at what is happening, sometimes it seems that the inhabitants of a madhouse have got into the leadership of some countries.


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