If the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita published an article encouraging the restoration of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, I say it would be worth considering, despite the fact that it would anger the plentiful ranks of polonophobes. If an article reproaching Lithuania with the dislike of Russia was printed, it would be understandable: the Moscow–Warsaw relations are almost reminiscent of the kissings during Leonid Brezhnev’s times, but the Rzeczpospolita published an article about Lithuania’s allegedly increasing pro-Russian orientation, Vladimiras Laučius wrote in delfi.lt on 16 January.
“During the rule of Valdas Adamkus and Lech Kaczynski both countries were considered the strongest fighters within the context of the EU’s relations with Russia. Now Lithuania is run by Dalia Grybauskaitė, who got her education in Leningrad, and the relations between Lithuania and Russia are not what you could call a verbal cold war but rather a cool peace,” claims the author of the article Jerzy Haszczynski. “Many signs show that Vilnius would like a completely warm peace.”
Haszczynski doesn’t even bother explaining to the readers what those signs are. It seems that the most important one is President Grybauskaitė’s studies in Leningrad. What a solid argument…
Why does Haszczynski see Grybauskaitė’s and Andrius Kubilius’s politics as pro-Russian? Maybe because they are based on achieving energy independence from Russia? And maybe because Grybauskaitė urged NATO too strictly to prepare the defence plans of the Baltic States faster?
Such reproaches may sound strange, but even stranger is the fact that they are spread by the great friend of Russia Donald Tusk’s Poland. Haszczynski is right by claiming that the Lithuanian–Polish position towards Russia looked the strictest in the EU. But he misleads by indicating the supposedly changed position of Lithuania, not Poland.
Since we began talking about the warm peace with Russia, we should at least admit that the provider of warmth is Poland, not Lithuania. Recently, Warsaw has been trying hard to incorporate Russia into the so called Weimar Triangle and turn it into a square. This is a much more realistic sign of warm peace than the studies of Lithuanian politicians in Moscow or Leningrad during the Soviet period.
What is more, Poland is the large EU member bending over backwards trying to get a visa waiver regime with the Kaliningrad region. The politics of the Polish Weimar Square and the significant progress towards a visa waiver regime with the Kaliningrad region demonstrate specifically, as Tomas Misiūnas puts it, ‘thawed relations with Russia’.
In the beginning of 2008, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said during a visit to Moscow that the matter of the planned USA’s anti-missile shield would be consulted with the Kremlin. Shortly afterwards, the plans to deploy the anti-missile shield in Poland, to which, as we know, Moscow resisted fiercely, were buried.
On 27–29 August 2009, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, participated at the Annual Convention of Polish Ambassadors. One year after Russia’s aggression towards Georgia, the diplomatic elite of the EU couldn’t find a better honorary guest than the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the aggressor country.
In the autumn of 2010, Lavrov went to Warsaw twice. In the same year, Waldemar Pawlak, Vice-Premier of Poland, and Igor Setchin, Vice-Premier of Russia, signed an agreement regarding the supply of Russian gas to Poland. The first visit of the President of Russia to Warsaw after a 9-year hiatus soon took place. President Dmitry Medvedev then said that the relations between the two countries were visibly getting warmer.
We haven’t heard anything like that about the relations between Lithuania and Russia from the Kremlin recently. Why does Haszczynski try looking for the warm peace between Vilnius and Moscow when the President of Russia speaks openly about the warm peace between Warsaw and Moscow? Maybe he simply got confused?
Haszczynski’s worries abut Moscow’s attempts at strengthening its influence in the region while the EU is facing serious difficulties are reasonable. He thinks that the quarrels between Vilnius and Warsaw have opened the way for this: “The big brother has been interfering with the never-ending quarrels between the young and the elder brother for many years.”
According to Haszczynski, if the crisis-stricken EU becomes weaker and, subsequently, less attractive to Lithuania, which is in its periphery, then the cooperation with strong Russia may seem like a good alternative. “The distancing from the elder brother increases the possibility of such a scenario coming true. It’s not too late to realize this. Both in Vilnius and Warsaw,” writes Haszczynski.
One may disagree with the ‘elder brother and younger brother’ rhetoric, but it’s a minor issue. Much more important is Haszczynski’s opinion on who is guilty for the quarrels between ‘the younger and the elder brothers’. According to him, Lithuania is to blame because it is adopting laws unfavourable to ethnic minorities, is tricking Warsaw, and failing to keep its promises regarding the rights of the Polish minority.
If the author of the article truly cared about the bilateral relations between Lithuania and Poland in the context of Russian influence, he, when evaluating the disagreements between Vilnius and Warsaw, would try to spot the mistakes of both sides and admit that a part of the blame falls on Warsaw. But Haszczynski doesn’t care about Lithuania’s arguments: he doesn’t presume that the position of Vilnius may be at least partially justifiable. He doesn’t even try to sound objective. Haszczynski believes and argues that Warsaw is being tricked, the Polish minority – wronged, and Vilnius – intractable.
Let’s try to be less categorical than Haszczynski. Let’s assume, or at least allow for such an assumption to exist, that both Vilnius and Warsaw are equally responsible for the disagreements. Though I, a polonophile and proponent of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, personally think that in this case Warsaw crosses the line of decency and common sense.
But let’s come back to the main topic of Haszczynski’s article – the relations of Lithuania and Poland with the ‘big brother’. How should we assess the Lithuanian Poles led by Waldemar Tomaszewski and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania regarding this aspect?
Tomaszewski has already announced about the joint bloc of the Electoral Action of the Poles in Lithuania and the Russian alliance in the coming Seimas elections. During the municipality elections in Vilnius, the parties of the Polish and the Russian minorities already participated jointly. Tomaszewski didn’t find it strange to cooperate with the politicians who praise the Kremlin openly. Among the comrades of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania who made it into the municipality council of Vilnius was even a USSR KGB officer.
I would like to ask Haszczynski: whose politics is pro-Russian – Lithuania’s or that of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, which gets all the votes from the Polish minority, with Soviet security officers among its ranks?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia announced a report last year about the status of human rights in some countries, including Lithuania. According to the report, Lithuania discriminates ethnic minorities. A verbatim Polish reproach. I wonder, which are copying from which?
The report, by the way, also states that Lithuania’s historical claims to Russia are not limited to the Soviet period – the topic of the 1831 rebellion ‘against tsarism’ is also escalated actively. And this is where the things start getting confusing: the Poles are saying that Lithuania is pro-Russian, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia – that pro-Polish.
According to political scientist Nerijus Maliukevičius, the report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia clearly contains an attempt to use the so-called ‘Polish card’. Since there aren’t many Russians in Lithuania, in order to reach its foreign policy goals Russia is using the Polish minority.
Why does Haszczynski see the warm peace between Lithuania and Russia when Moscow is demonstrating so openly its hostility towards Vilnius and the agreement with Warsaw on the issue of the Polish minority in Lithuania? Can’t he see, or simply doesn’t want to, who finds Tomaszewski’s politics the most useful and whom this persona cooperates with?
Haszczynski contradicts himself: he as if in a friendly manner warns Lithuania about Russia’s influence but then together with the Polish government starts protecting the agents of this influence. Maybe he should listen more carefully to the recently spoken words of Chairman of the Lithuanian House of National Communities Mahir Gamzayev: “The collision of certain Russian and Polish forces didn’t happen today. <…> Scenarios, provisions, ideological guidelines are harmonized not only in Lithuania but also beyond its borders. We see this. <…> We have been hostages of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania politics for a number of years now. Thanks to their destructive activity, ill-founded desires, and steps, we haven’t adopted the Law on Ethnic Minorities. We don’t even have laws that would contribute to the integration of various nations while maintaining our national identity and culture. We are sorry that certain Lithuanian institutions are acting way too liberally, even dangerously softly…”